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Charlottesville City Council approves Michael Kochis as police chief

After going more than a year without a permanent police chief, Charlottesville has named Warrenton Police Department chief Michael Kochis as the city’s new chief of police, effective Jan. 16, 2023.

The announcement came at Monday evening’s city council meeting.

Interim City Manager Michael Rogers recommended Kochis for the job to the full council. A video of Kochis briefly appeared on a Zoom call before being dragged off.

“It comes back to glowing reports in terms of his approachability, his engagement and commitment to community,” Rogers said.

“I know we have a lot of work to do, and I’m ready to get started,” Kochis said.

The announcement comes a week after the Police Civilian Oversight Board held a candidate forum for Kochis, current acting chief Tito Durrette and Loudoun County Sheriff’s Office commander Easton McDonald.

Durrette had been with CPD for more than 30 years and had taken over as acting police chief after former chief Rashall Brackney was fired by former city manager Chip Boyles. The firing was controversial then and now, and Durrette was named in a lawsuit Brackney filed against the city and some city employees, alleging her termination was the result of racial and gender discrimination.

Kochis received references from Warrenton’s local chapters of Black Lives Matter and NAACP.

Kochis will come to Charlottesville after about two years in Warrenton. There, he implemented a program called Guardian Score — a review system that allows people stopped by police to leave an anonymous star rating based on fairness, communication and listening skills, according to the Washington Post.

Kochis will face a number of challenges as police chief, particularly gun violence. Charlottesville has seen a spate of shootings this fall, the most recent of which was Saturday night. Charlottesville police said the person suffered a non-life-threatening, self-inflicted gunshot wound. The city police public information officer declined to provide more information, such as whether the shooting was accidental or intentional and what condition the victim was in. University of Virginia Police, who originally sent out the shooting alert, did not respond to multiple phone calls.

During the candidate forum last week, Kochis said that as police chief of the Warrenton Police Department, he was tasked with a similar situation where violent crime was down, but concern about gun violence was high.

“What we did is we met with key stakeholders … and we came up with a strategy to address the issue,” Kochis said. “We took that strategy and then we met with members of the community, and we ran it by them.”

Community members were unhappy with the strategy, Kochis said, so they developed a new one. Calls for service in the area dropped from 160 to one between July and November, he said.

CPD is also down 30 sworn officers, Captain Tony Newberry told the Daily Progress in October. That’s partly because of low morale, Newberry said. Boyles cited low morale among the officers as a reason for Brackney’s termination in 2021.

Kochis dealt with significant vacancies when he became Warrenton’s police chief, he said during the candidate forum. He created stability through a strategic plan and successfully filled vacancies, getting more than 100 applications.

Some expected that the city would go with the inside man, but Rogers said he recommended Kochis because he more closely aligned with what citizens said they wanted in a police chief.

“They wanted someone who was focused on community involvement, not just engagement,” Rogers said. “He’s demonstrated that he’s done that in Warrenton.”

Rogers said that Durrette would continue to be part of the department, but he did not say in what capacity.

“When the new chief arrives, [Durrette] is still an employee of the government. He’ll still be around until he decides otherwise,” said Rogers.


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