Three candidates for Charlottesville’s next police chief all say they support running a transparent department, focused on building community relationships and working closely with organizations like the Police Civilian Oversight Board (PCOB).

But they differ in how they would go about it, they said in a community forum Monday night.

The three finalists for Charlottesville’s new chief of police participated in a community forum Monday night. The current acting chief, Latroy A. “Tito” Durrette is in the running, along with Michael Kochis, the chief of the Warrenton Police Department, and Easton L. McDonald, a commander in the Loudoun County Sheriff’s Office.

Charlottesville’s interim City Manager Michael Rogers hopes to select a new police chief by the end of the year, a city spokesperson said.

The full two-hour forum is available online at this link. It was hosted by the PCOB, and the moderator asked questions the board had compiled from city officials and community members.

The board participated in the first and final rounds of interviews, PCOB chair William Mendez told Charlottesville Tomorrow. The city had six candidates. One was eliminated through the interview process and another chose not to continue.

The city announced the forum and solicited community questions Wednesday, Nov. 23, before the Thanksgiving holiday, and posted the candidates’ names to the city’s website at noon on Monday, six hours before the event began Nov. 28. Menedez says 23 community members submit 49 questions.

“Among other reasons for haste is that the labor market for high-quality senior police officers is very competitive, and several other high-profile jobs are interviewing in the same time frame,” Mendez said by email.

David Dillehunt, Charlottesville’s deputy director of communications, told Charlottesville Tomorrow he does not know why interim city manager Rogers, who chose the candidates, did not release the candidates’ names sooner.

Rogers will use the forum to help make his nomination for the next police chief to City Council, which will have ultimate say on whether to offer the position to the nominee, Dillehunte said.

Durrette has been leading the department since the former chief, RaShall Brackney, was fired by the former city manager last year. Durrette used to be the commander of the city’s SWAT team, before Brackney disbanded it. Last time Charlottesville Tomorrow spoke with him about it, he was open to the idea of reinstating the team.

Durrette has also spoken recently about addressing gun violence in Charlottesville. This month, he talked with City Council about shootings happening around the Downtown area. In April, he talked about addressing a rise in person on person crime through more mental health services and raising police salaries.

Kochis, Warrenton’s police chief, made national headlines recently for a program he rolled out this year that enables people to rate police officers like they would Uber drivers. After every interaction, officers in Warrenton are required to give people a card with a QR code that takes them to a survey.

“After George Floyd was murdered, we realized engaging the community wasn’t enough,” Kochis told the Washington Post. “We had to involve the community.”

McDonald, a Loudoun County Sheriff’s Office commander, has received little media attention recently, but years ago he was also in national news. In 2014, he mistook his teenage daughter for an intruder at his home and shot her. The 16-year-old was sneaking into the house after leaving without permission. McDonald, who was a Loudoun County deputy at the time, was not charged with anything.

With additional reporting by Angilee Shah.

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Jessie Higgins

I'm Charlottesville Tomorrow's managing editor and health and safety reporter. If there’s something you think we should be investigating, please email me at jhiggins@cvilletomorrow.org! And you can follow all the work we do by subscribing to our free newsletter! Hablo español, y quiero mantener a la comunidad hispanohablante informada. Si tienes preguntas o información que debo saber, por favor, envíame un correo electrónico a jhiggins@cvilletomorrow.org.