The police chief in Richmond, Virginia, has resigned after weeks of anti-police brutality protests following the death of George Floyd, Mayor Levar Stoney announced Tuesday. The mayor said that Chief William Smith resigned at his request.

“I have high expectations for the Richmond Police Department, our law enforcement. At a very minimum, I expect them to be willing to come around the table with the community to reform and reimagine public safety,” Stoney said. “So it boils down to whether the leadership of RPD embraces the change or stands in the way.”

“Chief Smith is a good man,” Stoney added. “He has served this city for a very long time. He has put his heart and soul into the service of the police department, and to this city, and I thank him for his service.”

Smith joined the department in 1995 and has been the city’s police chief since June 2019, CBS affiliate WTVR reported.

Major William “Jody” Blackwell will serve as the interim police chief, Stoney said. “Interim Chief Blackwell is willing and able to focus on the necessary public safety reforms,” he added. “He will lead our healing and trust-building within our community.”  

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Protesters surround police headquarters to protest against police brutality in Richmond, Virginia.  Eze Amos/Getty Images

Smith’s resignation comes after weeks of turmoil in Richmond and across the nation. The former police chief apologized earlier this month after officers tear-gassed a crowd of peaceful protesters, and he took a knee with demonstrators in front of Richmond’s City Hall in early June, WTVR reported.

Smith had also been criticized for claiming that only violent protesters were arrested for violating the city’s curfew and that out-of-town demonstrators caused most of the violent protests and riots, according to WTVR. Multiple officers have been placed on leave while the department investigates their conduct during the protests, the outlet added. 

“We have a good police department in the city of Richmond. I truly believe that,” Stoney said. “But I also believe we can be better. I believe that we have to do more to elevate the voices of our community, and I believe we have to do more to take a human services approach to public safety. And I believe that we have to do all of this work using a restorative justice framework.” 

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“One thing is clear after the past two weeks: Richmond is ready for a new approach to public safety,” he added. “There is work to be done. And we are ready to do it.” 

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