Apr 23, 2015

Richmond police chief Chris Magnus has gained national attention for a progressive, community-participation brand of policing that’s credited with increasing the department’s transparency while reducing the city’s crime rate.

But members of the Richmond Progressive Alliance (RPA) apparently don’t think he’s progressive enough.

Along with co-sponsoring a forum at RPA headquarters on Macdonald Avenue this Sunday demanding greater police department accountability, the RPA has been promoting a town hall at the Richmond Human Rights and Human Relations Commission (HRHRC) on Monday asking people to tell their tales of “police terror.”

But that town hall, set to be held in City Council Chambers, was not on the commission’s agenda. Instead, the agenda included a presentation by Chief Magnus on the issues of use of force and police pursuits.

When Mayor Tom Butt learned of the town hall, he promptly warned commissioners via email that groups may be looking to hijack their Monday meeting for their personal cause. Butt took issue with the town hall event billing itself as a “meeting on police brutality, abuse and terror,” when it was in fact a regularly scheduled commission hearing.

He said such an event is an improper use of council chambers and doesn’t make sense for Richmond, where the local police department is receiving national praise for its progressive policies, including its training of officers in use of force.

“Describing this discussion as ‘police brutality, abuse, and terror’ is a little over the top, especially in Richmond where police brutality, abuse, and terror is largely accepted as a thing of the past,” Butt said.

Magnus gained national attention — and drew ire from some of his own police officers — when he held a #BlackLivesMatter sign during a peaceful demonstration in Richmond. The chief was also chosen by the U.S. Department of Justice to assist in the civil rights probe related to the high-profile fatal shooting in Ferguson, Mo., of black teen Michael Brown by white Officer Darren Wilson.

Due to controversy over the “police terror” town hall, Magnus will no longer deliver a report to the HRHRC commission on Monday. Instead, the chief said Thursday he will discuss use of force issues at Tuesday’s City Council study session, a meeting that is overseen by Butt.

The RPA’s campaign against the police department apparently stems from the fatal shooting on Sept. 14 of Richard “Pedie” Perez, 24, of Richmond by Officer Wallace Jensen. That case is the impetus for Sunday’s forum at RPA headquarters, which insinuates that Jensen and the department should be held accountable for Perez’s death.

An investigation by the Contra Costa County District Attorney’s Office found that Jensen acted in self-defense. But members of the Oscar Grant Committee Against Police Brutality & State Repression, a co-sponsor of Sunday’s forum at RPA headquarters, say they have interviewed eyewitnesses who do not believe that the shooting was justified.

A release promoting Sunday’s forum at RPA headquarters states Perez’s shooting was “unwarranted” and that the meeting would not only discuss issues on police encounters but “prepare for upcoming City meetings where you can make a difference.”

Interestingly, the same release also notes that Perez’s killing was “the first lethal shooting by Richmond police since 2007.”

A request for comment from the RPA Thursday afternoon has not yet been answered.


  1. ~ Bad cops lie, falsify reports, plant evidence, use excessive force, flat out lie under oath in a court of law. And never even blink.

    ~ And good ones sometimes feel like they have to also and break their own code of ethics and conduct to cover for the bad ones. Or otherwise be labeled a rat and face retaliation. If any officer breaks the Law or Code of Ethics, he should not be shielded by the Police Bill of Rights.

    ~ What is more concerning and a national security threat, is what the bad apples do off duty, or on duty but off camera……………….?

    ~ Yes, polygraphs can be beat. Yes, the are inadmissable in court. Yes, they are only as good as the examiner. But if used as a tool to weed out the bad apples, and protect the good cops, maybe they would think twice before breaking the very laws they were sworn to uphold.

    ~ The good brave officers with integrity deserve better. And so does the public………………..

    ~ All Levels of Law Enforcement have for decades feel it is essential that polygraphs be used in the hiring process. Why not make Policy that Polygraphs and Psych Evals for new Hires expire every 5yrs? (Including hires for higher ranking positions)

    ~ President Obama Already Has a Way to Prevent Policing Abuses http://www.truth-out.org/opinion/item/30012-president-obama-already… (Deny federal grant money to any level of law enforcement agencies that do not have an outside, independent agency that can prove their accountability)

    ~ National Institute of Ethics: Police Code of Silence – Facts Revealed http://www.aele.org/loscode2000.html

    ~ Federal, State and Local Governments (including police) are excluded from the Polygraph Act of 1988. http://www.dol.gov/whd/regs/compliance/whdfs36.htm

    ~ Justice Department Probes Baltimore Police-Custody Death « CBS Baltimore http://baltimore.cbslocal.com/2015/04/21/police-identify-officers-i

    ~ DoD: Random Lie-Detector Tests Increase Personnel Security https://sm.asisonline.org/Pages/dod-random-lie-detector-tests-incre… (the polygraph is the single most effective tool for finding information people were trying to hide.”)

    ~ Center for Investigative Reporting ~ “Crossing the line: Corruption at the border” – http://bordercorruption.apps.cironline.org/

    ~ National Journel – How Drug Cartels Try to Corrupt Federal Employees (4-12-11) – http://www.nationaljournal.com/how-drug-cartels-try-to-corrupt-fede

    ~ Break the Code. Break the Culture.

    Donalds | Apr 24th, 2015
  2. Thank you for the article. I’m sorry to hear that Chief Magnus won’t show. He might learn something by listening to the people. Of course he should describe his policies to the Commission, and the actual experience of the people, in their own words, would contribute a healthy balance.

    I’m grateful for your mentioning our site, but unfortunately the link points to an inactive site (that we can’t get rid of). Our real site is at the above URL. We no longer own the Weebly site, & the owner won’t take it down.

    I’m an OGC member, but I’m commenting personally. I know that Richmond cops have been doing much better under Magnus for years, and give him credit for that. But the shooting of Pedie Perez makes it clear that there’s still work to do. Even more troubling are the major differences between the police/DA’s accounts and the eyewitness/video evidence we’ve seen.

    Mayor Butts is concerned that “groups [i.e, people working together] may be looking to hijack their Monday meeting for their personal cause.” Given that Magnus was to speak on “use of force and police pursuits,” a fatal shooting is hardly off-topic. If people telling the Commission what they have seen and experienced at the hands of police is “hijacking,” what is the purpose of the Commission? Perhaps the politicians would rather deal with fellow politicians than with the people they claim to represent?

    Out-of-control cops are not a “personal cause.” They are a national problem, a big one. We all know that. I respect the honest cops, and I want to know how we can protect them.

    Butts may “largely accept” that “police brutality, abuse, and terror is… a thing of the past,” but Pedie Perez’s friends and relatives don’t. And anyone who looks at the (public) evidence will have, at best, severe doubts.

    If this is “improper” for the Human Rights Commission to look into, then what’s the commission for?

    Ed Rippy | Apr 24th, 2015

About the Author

Mike Aldax is the editor of the Richmond Standard. He has 13 years of journalism experience, most recently as a reporter for the San Francisco Examiner. He previously held roles as reporter and editor at Bay City News, Napa Valley Register, Garden Island Newspaper in Kaua’i, and the Queens Courier in New York City.