‘Don’t believe everything you read ... in the Richmond Free Press’
9/2/2021, 6 p.m.
Re “Jury still out: After a year on the job, Richmond Police Chief Gerald Smith has not won over many officers or residents either through style or substance,” Free Press Aug. 12-14 edition, and “Vacancies hurting Richmond’s emergency operations,” Free Press Aug. 26-28 edition:
I take issue with the recent reporting related to the Richmond Police Department in two editions of the Richmond Free Press. First, because the reporting by Jeremy Lazarus primarily is not based on facts. Second, this reporter had the opportunity to interview me, as chief of police, to research and receive the correct numbers and information needed for fair, accurate and unbiased reporting for both articles. He chose not to.
The first article regarding my first year as Richmond’s chief of police was more of an opinion piece that relied on anonymous sources. Thankfully, Mayor Levar M. Stoney and Councilwoman Reva M. Trammell were able to provide some insight as to my work for Richmond Police and for this city that I now call home.
I have come to know quite a few residents and business owners during my first year and will work to get to know more.
But a worldwide pandemic and the continuance of crime and working to curb it has put a hindrance on my interactions with people in general as well as the people I work with – Richmond Police personnel. My door remains open to both.
The only thing factual concerning Richmond Police about the second article was the headline, “Vacancies hurting Richmond’s emergency operations.” Our sworn strength fluctuates week to week with new hires and staff attrition. We currently have 80 vacancies, the most recent vacancies due to retirements. I have not downplayed the situation regarding vacancies as reported in the article.
The example given in the article that First Precinct in Church Hill had only two officers to report for a recent shift was totally false.
And this department would never have only one officer to work Shockoe Bottom on a Saturday night given the shootings we have experienced in that neighborhood this year.
I am not sure what the goal of the recent articles in your publication is or was. But it could not have been sound reporting. It was sensationalized and editorialized, two things that should not be contained in a news article.
One thing I did learn from these articles is that the reporter, Jeremy Lazarus, lacks integrity. Another thing I learned from these articles is don’t believe everything you read, especially in the Richmond Free Press.
CHIEF GERALD M. SMITH
Richmond Police Department
Editor’s note: We thank Chief Smith for his Letter to the Editor. We note, however, that two staff members contacted Chief Smith and his media representative multiple times during the course of more than two months requesting an interview with the chief. We also stand by the characterization of the facts as published based on information provided to our reporter by officers, spokespersons and others within the Richmond Police Department. Because Chief Smith disagrees with the facts in our story, we invite him to open the logs and show the public the records related to the number of officers on duty in Church Hill and Shockoe Bottom during the shifts in question.