|Richmond Police Recruitment Approaches Goal
January 17, 2008
On January 15, 2008, seven new Richmond Police officers were sworn in. These seven join six others, for a total of 13, in various phases of in-house 20 week PTO (Police Training Officer) program. Seven more officers are in police academies and will graduate this Spring. Four lateral transfers will join the department in late February or early March.
Two academies start in June for as many as seven new recruits. Another round of applicant testing begins on February 23.
The current Richmond Police Department staffing level is 163 sworn personnel. Chief Magnus anticipates reaching the authorized and budgeted strength of 179 before the end of the fiscal year (June 30, 2008).
In related news, Chief Magnus promoted Sgt. Allwyn Brown to captain on January 14, eliciting criticism from one of the officers, Lt. Arnold Threets, who previously accused Magnus of harassment and is currently involved in a lawsuit against the City. Lt. Threets is president of the Richmond Police Management Association (RPMA) and had represented his criticism as that of the association, but another RPMA board member says Threets never received board authorization for his remarks.
The following is from the January 14, West County Times:
Richmond police chief promotes new captain despite internal objections
By Karl Fischer
Article Launched: 01/14/2008 01:10:10 PM PST
Richmond police Chief Chris Magnus promoted a new captain Monday over the objections of labor, which asked him to hold off because of a department staffing shortage.
Sgt. Allwyn Brown, a 24-year department veteran and patrol supervisor in the Iron Triangle, will leapfrog lieutenancy and assume command of policing in central Richmond beginning Sunday.
"We want to look at some new enforcement strategies, particularly in the area of crime prevention. Some of our resources in that area are underutilized," Brown said. "Really what I'm talking about is bringing a higher level of participation in crime prevention to every neighborhood in the community."
The move also helps to shore up dissension on Magnus's senior command staff, much of which sued the department in 2007 over allegations of racial discrimination.
While well-respected on the force, Brown's ascension disappointed leadership of the department's two police unions -- representing rank-and-file officers and supervisors -- for different reasons.
The Richmond Police Officers Association opposed Magnus making any promotions because of a severe staffing shortage. President Kevin Martin said the union views promotions as leeching critical staffing from street-level work, where the department has struggled for years to keep a full complement of patrol officers working around the clock.
Meanwhile, the Richmond Police Managers Association, which includes many of those suing the department, wrote in a Jan. 8 letter to City Manager Bill Lindsay that he should not allow Magnus to make "any promotions at this time; but especially not interviews/promotions to the rank of captain."
Lt. Arnold Threets, who also interviewed for the job, did not return a call Monday. A plaintiff in the lawsuit against the department, Threets also serves as president of the RPMA.
Martin said he hoped the department would wait half a year or longer to make promotions, allowing time for a large cadre of recruits to work through the police academy and reach the streets.
"I'm disappointed. I'm happy for Allwyn -- he's a great sergeant, and I hope he will be a great captain -- I'm just disappointed that after (Magnus) tells us that he's well aware of the manpower situation" he promoted, Martin said. "He knows our need, and he took from the patrol ranks anyway."
Magnus said the department runs uncomfortably lean at all levels, including management. Even after Brown's promotion, funded positions for a deputy chief, two lieutenants and six sergeants remain open.
Supervisors need time to grow into their positions and should be as ready as possible for the expected influx of new officers and managers this year, Magnus said.
"It continues to be a balancing act," Magnus said. "I have not rushed to fill positions. Obviously there are a lot of supervisory positions vacant right now. This works well."
Magnus said he plans to hold open for at least a year the deputy chief position vacated by the retirement of Lori Ritter last year. Brown will become the department's fifth captain.
Capt. Alec Griffin will shift from supervising the central Richmond patrol to overseeing administration and the investigations division, absorbing many of the tasks previously performed by the deputy chief.
Brown will replace Griffin in the patrol structure, one of the most active captaincies. The central policing district includes the Iron Triangle, Shields-Reid and Belding Woods neighborhoods, which all suffer disproportionate levels of street violence compared with other sections of the city.
The district became ground zero for a bloody stretch of homicides from October to December that pushed Richmond's 2007 total to 47, highest since the early 1990s.
"It seems like the groups of people getting engaged in these more bold violent crimes are getting younger and younger. It's a way of getting respect on the street, strength. And the best symbol of strength is the gun," Brown said. "It is a complex problem."
Though he passed several lieutenants who applied for the job, Brown commands respect within the department. He spent the past two years supervising a patrol team in central Richmond, before which he supervised a team of homicide detectives.
His resume includes several high-impact, high-visibility assignments, including stints as a narcotics detective, homicide detective and gang intelligence supervisor. He also became one of the city's first dedicated community policing officers during its inaugural program in 1993.
"He's open to change, he's excited about tackling old problems in new ways," Magnus said. "He's been very engaged from the beginning in his role in the central policing district."
Not everyone feels they got a fair shake. Seven passed the tests to qualify for the job, including three plaintiffs in the lawsuit against Magnus and the department, in which they allege Magnus made racist comments and discriminated against them on the basis of race. Magnus interviewed each candidate last week.
Threets wrote in his letter that Magnus's ability to promote independently should be suspended, at least until the litigation resolves. He claimed some unfairness in the testing process: He was denied when he asked to hear comments made about him by those testing him for the rank.
The suit remains in mediation. Magnus and the city emphatically deny the allegations.
Reach Karl Fischer at 510-262-2728 or firstname.lastname@example.org.