Mayor Nikuyah Walker apologized for the firing of Police Chief RaShall Brackney during Tuesday’s City Council meeting.
“I would just like to thank Chief Brackney for her leadership and apologize on behalf of the city for a termination that has tarnished her reputation,” Walker said during the Recognitions and Proclamations portion of the meeting.
“[Brackney] someone who’s managed to survive in an institution of policing for over 30 years … and to be able to show up in this city after 2017, take all the torment and vitriol that she’s experienced and most of it was not based on any facts, and still attempt to reform a police department that clearly doesn’t want reform,” Walker said.
Walker spoke for about eight minutes.
“ … to take what doesn’t seem like much information and terminate her in this very public way … that is shameful,” Walker said.
But Walker — like all other members of the City Council — was not involved in the decision and had no power to stop it. Walker said she was unaware of the decision until it was announced. The police chief is hired, managed and, sometimes, fired by the city manager.
Last week, City Manager Chip Boyles exercised his right to terminate Brackney’s employment contract upon 90 days’ notice. Brackney, who was hired by the city in June 2018, will be on paid administrative leave until Nov. 30.
Brackney has not commented on the termination publicly.
On Friday, Boyles announced that the city would begin a nationwide search for its next police chief. Assistant Police Chief James Mooney will manage the police department until a new chief is hired. Mooney was set to retire Wednesday prior to the announcement that Brackney had been fired.
Boyles did not address the termination of Brackney’s contract during the City Manager’s Response period of the meeting.
Boyles did not give a reason for Brackney’s termination but members of the public are speculating it may be related to survey data released by the Central Virginia Chapter of the Virginia Police Benevolent Association last month that indicated dissatisfaction among its members with the leadership of the city police department.
Prior to Recognitions and Proclamations, Walker moved to add discussion of Brackney’s termination to the night’s agenda. Her motion was not seconded and therefore was not added to the agenda.
Members of the community demanded answers about Brackney’s firing during the meeting.
“We want to look up to [our leaders]. I can’t trust anybody anymore,” Gloria Beard said. She said she was disappointed that city staff and City Council had yet to explain the reasoning for why Brackney was fired.
Some people voiced their frustration with the councilors for not voting for Walker’s motion to discuss Brackney’s termination.
“ I can’t believe that … you don’t want to talk to the community about what’s going on with the police,” said Katrina Turner. “This city is going to hell and nobody wants to talk about it … This should not be a business as usual meeting tonight.”
“We deserve better than this. Charlottesville deserves better than this … than what you all as a council have been willing to give us,” said community activist Don Gathers. “Please, think about your actions. And in regards to tonight, think about your inaction.”
Some community members challenged Boyles specifically.
“You claim to be able to find a new direction, but you don’t want to tell us what that new direction is. Do you even know you know anything about policing?” Jeffrey Fogel asked. “You have a lot of explaining to do, Mr. Boyles.”
“I thought you were a man to step up and turn things around and make a difference here in the city of Charlottesville and be transparent. All you’re doing is what they’ve always been doing and hiding the truth. One day, the truth is gonna come out,” said Melvin Burress.
Tanesha Hudson said she sees a pattern with Black city leaders being ousted, such as former City Manager Tarron Richardson.
“This has happened to every Black leader that has touched this city. It’s disgusting,” Hudson said. “Now Brackney’s gone. It’s the same stuff over and over and over … again.”