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Portsmouth FOP president opens up on hire of former Police Chief Tonya Chapman as city manager

Regardless of the history, he said the Portsmouth Fraternal Order of Police is willing to work with Chapman in her new role.

PORTSMOUTH, Va. — The president of the Portsmouth Fraternal Order of Police said the group is willing to work with incoming City Manager Tonya Chapman despite drama surrounding her exit as the city's former police chief.

Chapman is scheduled to start as Portsmouth city manager on Thursday, June 30. City leaders are still working out the details of her contract. 

In a 4-3 vote earlier this month, Portsmouth City Council appointed Chapman to the position, after abruptly firing her predecessor Angel Jones with the same 4-3 count. 

Chapman is no stranger to city leadership. 

Chapman became the first Black woman to serve as police chief in Virginia when she was sworn in to lead the Portsmouth Police Department in 2016. She resigned three years later but said city leaders forced her out. 

"I hope that when she does become city manager, the past is the past," said Mike Holley, president of the Portsmouth Fraternal Order of Police. 

Holley, who worked under Chapman in the department, described her tenure as police chief as "stressful" for many officers, though he also acknowledged Chapman had supporters.  

"There was some good and some bad," Holley said. "The way she wanted to move the department didn't sit right with a lot of people. So, we ended up losing a lot of officers." 

RELATED: Former Portsmouth Police chief claims she was forced to resign

After Chapman resigned, she said she experienced several issues within the department, including systemic racism. According to Holley, the Federal Bureau of Investigation later spoke to multiple officers about the claims. 

In 2019, an FBI Norfolk spokesperson confirmed the FBI "looked into allegations," but could not specify the nature of the concerns. 

13NewsNow reached out to the FBI Norfolk to learn what, if anything, came of that inquiry. We are waiting to hear back. 

Flash forward to this week, Chapman is returning to city leadership. According to Holley, some police officers are turning in their badges because of the hire. 

"They have already put in their papers and they are leaving," he said. 

Regardless of the history, Holley said FOP leaders are willing to work with Chapman in her new role and said the group will offer to sit down with the former chief to build a bridge forward.

“Will the olive branch be extended? Yes. Will we continue to extend an olive branch when told no? No," said Holley. "If she backs us and helps us, I don’t have a problem getting behind her 100%.”

Holley said the group would like to discuss several issues with the new city manager. 

Right now, the police department is stretched thin and needs more people, said Holley. Portsmouth police, like many law enforcement departments across Hampton Roads and the nation, is working to combat staffing shortages. 

RELATED: Police officer shortages: Hampton Roads law enforcement working to fill gaps in their units

Staff retention and hiring more officers are among the objectives Holley hopes remains on the radar of city leadership. 

"You gotta keep people here," he said. 

Holley said he and others in the department are thankful for a recent pay increase and decompression, but he said there is still work to be done. FOP leaders would like to talk with Chapman about a comprehensive benefits package, pay steps and more compensation for supervisors and civilians in the department. 

Holley spoke highly of former City Manager Angel Jones, who he said, "saw there was an issue and fixed the issue." He said Jones sat down with FOP leaders, listened to their concerns and followed through on her promises. 

"Ms. Jones did us right," said Holley. 

RELATED: Ousted Portsmouth city manager speaks out after sudden termination

Holley said he is hopeful it can be a similar experience with Chapman. 

"I hope when [Chapman] becomes city manager, the past is the past," Holley said. "And she'll be willing to listen [to our issues.]"    

However, Holley shared concerns about Chapman's longevity as city manager, citing discord among the city council. 

The decisions to fire Jones and appoint Chapman have sparked weeks of drama and tension, including a handful of allegations among city leaders, ongoing recall efforts and Mayor Shannon Glover's attempt to file criminal charges on fellow council members.

And Tuesday, Glover and Councilman Bill Moody alleged the two councilmen in charge of negotiating Chapman's contract, Vice Mayor De'Andre Barnes and Dr. Mark Whitaker, want to offer the former police chief a two-year severance pay totaling $400,000 if she's fired within the first year.

RELATED: 'Unprecedented' severance pay on the table for new Portsmouth city manager

Jones held the role for a little more than one year.

“If they are already setting this up, then people know what this is about," said Holley, who also took issue with the alleged severance package. "They are worried about paying her all this money to make sure she gets taken care of if she gets terminated, but they’re not looking after the people who run this city, who answer calls for service."

Holley ended the conversation by saying he is concerned about the current state of city council leadership. 

“God bless the Commonwealth, and God save the City of Portsmouth because that’s kind of the direction we are in right now. And hopefully, she can get us out of this spiral but … I don’t know," he said.


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