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Deputy chiefs leading police department during discrimination lawsuit against Chief Magnus

on January 30, 2012

Although Richmond Police Chief Chris Magnus is expected to be in court through March defending himself in a racial discrimination lawsuit, RPD leaders say it’s business as usual for the department.

Deputy Chiefs Allwyn Brown and Ed Medina are acting together as interim chiefs. Brown, a 28-year veteran of the RPD, is in charge of policing services, including the patrol and detective divisions. Medina, who has been with the RPD for 25 years, is responsible for anything administrative or technical, such as finances and hiring.

RPD Capt. Mark Gagan said these are not new positions for Brown and Medina, who are prepared to take over for Magnus at any time. “We do have direction from our deputy chiefs and there are no activities that we are not able to perform in light of these events that are going on,” Gagan said.

Eight African American police officers, one of whom has retired and withdrawn from the suit since the group filed it in 2007, are accusing Magnus and former Deputy Chief Lori Ritter of racial discrimination. They claim that Magnus and Ritter made racist jokes and denied promotions for black officers. Magnus refutes the allegations and his attorneys argue that the claims were made in an effort to undermine a new police chief.

Their suit comes at a time when RPD Officer Dedrick Riley was recently acquitted of charges of police brutality. Prosecutors said Riley repeatedly punched a handcuffed suspect, using unlawful force, and then lied about the incident to superiors. The defense argued that Riley did not act inappropriately and reported the event, but that the RPD wanted an excuse to fire Riley. The jury found Riley not guilty on Thursday.

While these trials involve a number of officers and high-ranking officials in the department, Gagan said leaders knew about the court dates ahead of time and were able to plan accordingly. Gagan said the RPD is “still at 100 percent capacity.”

“This is not uncommon with public safety agencies,” he said. “We really do plan for people to be available and we have a contingency plan in place. Everyone is trained to perform the duty of person in rank above them.”

Medina said the department isn’t operating any differently during the chief’s absence and added that the chief still drops in when he has a break from the trial.

“The department still operates, everyone has their everyday function and job — everybody,” Medina said.

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