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Wednesday, Nov. 30, 2022

The three finalists for Charlottesville’s new chief of police made a public appearance at 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.

The full two-hour forum is available online at this link, and if you have the time, I think it’s worth watching in its entirety. It was hosted by the Charlottesville Police Civilian Oversight Board, and the moderator asked questions the board compiled from city officials and community members.

Three men in suits sit at a table with microphones, with another man behind them, near a podium.

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 before the holiday weekend, and posted the candidates names to the city’s website at noon on Monday, six hours before the event began. Mendez 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.

Interim City Manager Michael C. Rogers will use the forum to help make his nomination for the next police chief to City Council.

There are some similarities between the candidates. All say they support running a transparent department, focused on building community relationships and working closely with organizations like the PCOB. But there are some differences in how they would go about it.

James Mooney (left) and Tito Durrette (right) at their promotion ceremony to the rank of Captain in January 2019.

Latroy A. “Tito” 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 we spoke with him about it, he was open to the idea of reinstating the team.

Charlottesville’s SWAT team was disbanded for ’disturbing behavior,’ but there’s still funding for it if a new chief wants to reinstate it

Durrette has also spoken recently about gun violence in Charlottesville. This month, he talked with City Council about shootings happening around the Downtown area, which you can read more about in this NBC29 story. In April, he talked about addressing a rise in person on person crime through more mental health services and raising police salaries. You can read more of what he said in this NBC29 article.

A man in a suit speaks into a microphone.

Michael Kochis, Warrenton’s police chief, made national headlines recently for a program he rolled out this year that enables citizens to rate police officers like they would an Uber driver. After every interaction, officers in Warrenton are required to give people a card with a QR code that takes them to a survey. You can read more about the program, and the chief who implemented it, in The Washington Post.

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

A man in a suit speaks into a microphone.

Easton L. 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. You can read more about the incident in The Washington Post.

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A school bus on a tree-lined street, with a student exiting to a sidewalk.
Credit: Kori Price/Charlottesville Tomorrow

Dozens of Albemarle kids miss the first hour of school each week because their buses arrive late

This story about the school bus driver shortage in Albemarle County ran last week, but I wanted to highlight it again in case any of you missed it over the holiday weekend. It’s a big deal.

Every week in the county, dozens of kids arrive more than an hour late to school. Hundreds more are between one and 60 minutes late. The problem is that the county school system is short about 30 drivers, and there just aren’t enough people to drive all the routes.

Other districts don’t have enough drivers, either. In Charlottesville, the district’s response was to restrict access to buses and encourage families to walk or find alternate transportation. Albemarle made a different decision. They have given seats to every child who requested one. (With a district spanning 726 square miles, they weren’t willing to leave kids stranded.) But, that means that it’s impossible to get all the buses to school on time.

The first episode of a new local podcast is about what violence means in our lives.

In My Humble Opinion on 101.3FM launched the podcast last week, building on the work of Charlottesville Inclusive Media to bring more of our community’s perspectives into critical conversations. Subscribe to In My Humble Opinion on iTunes, Spotify or wherever you get your podcasts. Charlottesville Inclusive Media is a partnership between the radio program, Vinegar Hill Magazine and our team at Charlottesville Tomorrow.

The first episode features writer and librarian Katrina Spencer and is based on the essay she wrote earlier this year for Vinegar Hill Magazine called, “Public Violence, Our Trusty Companion.” 

We hope all our readers had a wonderful Thanksgiving weekend. We’re thankful for you.

Jessie Higgins, managing editor

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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.