Richmond police chief faces heat for Twitter post

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Richmond Police Department has not scrapped john shaming program
These photos were temporarily posted on Facebook as part of the Richmond Police Department program publicly shaming johns.

Richmond police Chief Chris Magnus, who is known to add humor to reports about local crimes on his Twitter account and the department’s Facebook page, is battling criticism for a recent Tweet involving RPD’s controversial new strategy to combat prostitution by publicly shaming johns and sex workers.

In the Tweet, which has been deleted, Magnus named two prostitutes by their street monikers when announcing a bust. Though he did not use their actual names, the police chief received backlash on Twitter for outing sex workers:

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The exchange above is only a snapshot of the angry comments directed at the police chief. On Monday, RPD spokesperson Sgt. Nicole Abetkov said Magnus is not commenting further on the Twitter exchange. However, to avoid such a reaction in the future, the chief has reportedly decided to be more selective about what he Tweets from now on – meaning he won’t attempt to joke about certain crimes.

However, that doesn’t mean RPD will stop publicly shaming johns and prostitutes.

Magnus stands behind the department’s prostitution abatement strategy, which includes posting names and photos of sex workers and their customers on the department’s Twitter and Facebook pages. Police also plan to mail warning letters to the homes of suspected johns – letters that could end up being intercepted by significant others.

The strategy’s aim is to slow rampant prostitution activity along 23rd Street and Ohio Avenue, where families with children live and where some sex workers are as young as 12 or 13. Prostitution is not a victimless crime, Abetkov said, as it often invites drugs, thefts and violence into neighborhoods.

“Obviously people answering these Tweets don’t understand the totality of the problem,” the police sergeant said.

Abetkov added those Tweeting their displeasure with Magnus don’t live in Richmond, a city that has experienced a significant reduction in violent and property crimes under the chief’s tenure.

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