Police Chief Magnus visits Richmond Confidential
on November 6, 2011
Richmond Police Department Chief Chris Magnus and Captain Mark Gagan came to the Richmond Confidential newsroom Friday to discuss police-media relations and answer questions.
Magnus has been chief of the RPD since January 2006. He served as a cop in Lansing, Michigan for 18 years and then as the chief of police in Fargo, North Dakota for six years before coming to Richmond.
Gagan was promoted from a lieutenant to a captain last year, and is one of the RPD’s public information officers.
A hot topic of conversation was the tension between the police and the Office of Neighborhood safety following the fistfight that occurred in the ONS office last month. The ONS is known for its alternative crime-fighting techniques, such as enlisting “neighborhood change agents” to monitor the streets.
“There are some natural tensions between the way ONS folks do their job and the way we do our job,” Magnus said. “… That tension should have been dealt with earlier.”
Magnus said he’s working to help his force better understand the ONS’ goals and inner workings, particularly with the upcoming initiation of the Ceasefire, an ONS program that will require collaboration between the community and law enforcement to target at-risk youth.
Overall, Magnus said he has transformed his department quite a bit since he became chief six years ago.
“I view myself as a change agent and I think the community wanted change in the police department,” he said. “I think someone would say they don’t agree with all the changes … Many of [the cops] were very excited and continue to be very engaged in doing their jobs differently. Some, not so much. I get it and change is a hard thing.”
Magnus and Gagan also discussed CCTV cameras. When asked why they are unable to produce a map of every camera location, Magnus said releasing that information could be detrimental to the program’s effectiveness.
“We have a couple different purposes in mind,” he said. “One is that there will be locations where we want to place CCTV as a deterrent. It makes sense that the public knows it’s there because it’s a public deterrent. But we also … wanted it to be an enforcement tool as well.”
Magnus discussed his experiences as a Richmond resident, how Richmond is often portrayed in the media and various challenges his department faces. When asked if he thinks of himself as an exceptionally open-minded chief, Magnus smiled.
“Am I unusual? I don’t know,” he said. “I think there are other chiefs out there who are trying to do progressive things … Maybe [I’m] a little unconventional, but maybe not all that unusual.”
Other recent guest speakers at the Richmond Confidential newsroom include ONS Director DeVone Boggan and Vernon Whitmore, publisher of the Richmond Globe.
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