police Chief Tonya Chapman
police Chief Tonya Chapman

Virginia’s First African-American Female Police Chief Resignation Raises Suspicion

in Virginia

Last updated on April 1st, 2019

On Monday, Virginia’s first African-American female police chief claimed in her four-page letter that she was forced to resign. She said her resignation from the post was racially motivated.

Tonya Chapman became the first African-American woman to be appointed as police chief in 2016. She was seen as the chief of police who always tried her best to improve policing methods by the citizens of Portsmouth. The city has more than 100,000 citizens out of which 53 percent are black. It is also said that before her joining, the citizens had no trust in the police department.

“I can assure you that I did not ‘quit’ on the citizens of Portsmouth. My mother did not raise me to be a quitter,” Chapman wrote. “She raised me to be a strong woman. As such, my resignation was not tendered under my own volition. This was a forced resignation and our City Manager was the conduit.”

As mentioned by the former police chief, she was fired for efforts to bring a change in the police department which had “bias and acts of systemic racism, discriminatory practices and abuse of authority”.

“Some quite frankly did not like taking direction from an African American female,” she wrote.

She further asserted that leading the police department was not going to be an easy task. After the fateful encounter of an unarmed man by a white police officer, the “racial tensions” in the department became evident. The officer who was arrested for a first degree murder was later charged for manslaughter.

Chapman also wrote in her letter that her resignation was not voluntarily and the City Manager, Lydia Pettis Patton was responsible for it.

She further claimed that some members in the police department tried to initiate “no-confidence” motion against her regularly. The Portsmouth Fraternal Order of Police said that “at no time did the Portsmouth FOP call for or attempt to call for a vote of no confidence” against Chapman.

A statement from the city said, on March 18 Patton accepted the resignation of the former police chief. Her deputy, Angela Greene, took Chapman’s position for the meantime.

Chapman further wrote in her letter that during the meeting with Patton, the city manager cited that the former police chief had lost the faith of the department. She also threatened Chapman by asking her to resign or else she will terminate her. Chapman said she was also promised severance pay of worth two months if she resigned, so she signed the resignation letter “under duress”.

Chapman mentioned her achievements as the chief of police in the letter as well. She claimed that homicides decreased by more than 50 percent in the city during her first year as police chief. She further claimed that under her leadership the minority representation rose to 31 percent at the Portsmouth Police Department and the department enrolled more than 350 personnel, including 255 sworn officers.

She has asked for constructive letter of recommendation from the city of Portsmouth and her severance pay to be provided for six months.

The Portsmouth NAACP and the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives support the former police chief and will discuss her resignation at the City Council meeting on Tuesday.

Following the statement after Chapman’s resignation, the Portsmouth NAACP said that “We continue to witness patterns of blatant systemic racism resulting in the elimination of Black leaders in our City Governance and we are hell bent on fighting it through transparency, accountability and policy changes.”

Seeing the work and efforts of former police chief, Tonya Chapman, to improve the police department and their trust with citizens, her sudden resignation raises suspicions.

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