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Windsor police chief proposes strategy to improve department policies, community trust

Police Chief Rodney Riddle outlined suggestions to improve policies, training, and hiring practices in response to the Dec. 5 traffic stop of an Army lieutenant.

WINDSOR, Va. — Nearly two weeks after a viral, controversial video of a soldier's traffic stop, the Windsor police chief offered suggestions to better evaluate and equip his department.

Police Chief Rodney Riddle outlined those action items for Windsor Town councilmembers Tuesday.

One of the key focal points: making sure all department policies are up-to-date and suited for the community.

Riddle said it is difficult to stay on top of needed policy changes with a small-town staff. The Windsor Police Department employs seven officers and two auxiliary officers.

“It’s not possible to commit the number of hours that you need every day to commit to these things unless you are working 24 hours, 365 on policy matters," said Riddle.

Riddle is requesting nearly $25,000 to hire a company named LEXIPOL, which reviews departments' policies and offers consultation to make sure agencies are consistent with other departments and state law.

Town council members said Tuesday they needed more time to look over the details and did not take up a vote.

“It’s important to keep it updated and get that accountability out there for the officers and get the best information that we can have and the best practices and policies to protect our community," said Riddle.

It is nearly two weeks since a video of a Dec. 5, 2020, traffic stop went viral. The body camera footage of officer Daniel Crocker and former officer Joe Gutierrez, shows them pointing their guns, threatening and pepper-spraying Army Lt. Caron Nazario.

Gutierrez is no longer with the department. Nazario has filed a federal lawsuit against both officers for a violation of his civil rights.

“Never seen a traffic stop like that here, not in ten years," said Riddle. "Where does that come from? How can we get ahead of that? What skill sets can we give our officers to better handle these situations?”

According to Riddle, officers have been asked to complete a four-hour online Implicit Bias training offered by the Virginia Association of Chiefs of Police by April 30. A Georgia-based agency will provide in-person de-escalation training at the end of May.

The chief also wants to create a hiring panel consisting of two members of the police department, one member of the town council and two people from the community. Questions have been raised, most notably by the Isle of Wight NAACP chapter, about the department's hiring practices amid calls for more Black police officers on staff.

"The new panel interview method will allow the community members and other leaders to provide their perspective on possible applicants and assist the department in identifying the best possible candidates," read Riddle's letter to the council.

Some people have also said people of color are disproportionately ticketed on Route 460. Riddle said no one has ever brought those claims to the department.

“The town has a reputation of a speed trap," he said. "I’ve never seen any bias on people based on race, sex, religion, cultural creeds, diversities, whatever, but no one has ever come to us and said that. That’s the first I’ve ever heard of that story.”

However, his plan does seek ways to reduce speeding without the need for officer involvement. It requests investment in "speed measuring devices" to place along Route 460 to help eliminate the need for police-based traffic enforcement of speed violators.

“At the end of the day, it's part of the biggest conversation that has kind of evolved from this and spun from, and let’s go ahead and address it and deal with and start moving forward on all of it.”

Riddle said there will be a meeting with the local NAACP chapter on Wednesday.

The meeting Tuesday was part of the town council's previously announced objectives to host weekly opportunities for community input in response to the Dec. 5 traffic stop. However, all but one person in attendance was a town official. 

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