Written By: Nathan Cox
(Correction: Virginia Cop Block originally published on July 21st that Petersburg does not have an active chapter of the NAACP. This information was published due to inaccurate information that was given to us by two members of Chesterfield County’s NAACP, one member being L.J McCoy, the President of that chapter. McCoy did say the Petersburg NAACP chapter had not been active for 6 or more years. However we learned today, July 23rd, that Alenza Mayfield did in fact re-institute the chapter back around the March time-frame of this year. My personal apologies to Mayfield for the error. – Nathan Cox)
On Friday July 18th, Petersburg Police Chief, John Dixon and NAACP’s Alzena Mayfield, President of the Petersburg chapter held an impromptu press conference at the Petersburg Police Department. The Petersburg community has been waiting for well over one month now to see if Officer Vance Richards will be held accountable for assaulting Devin Thomas for simply recording a traffic stop. Various individuals from the Petersburg community, as well as neighboring counties, are concerned about what has been happening and have reached out to express their desire to have a town hall style gathering with Chief Dixon, to no avail thus far. A number of individuals as well as members of the media like Brent Solomon, a reporter for NBC 12, are concerned about this matter and are eager and patiently waiting to hear the results of this “internal investigation”.
The police do not like transparency and accountability and it doesn’t matter if this accountability is coming from your “average citizen” or the local media; they don’t like you questioning them (or their “authority”). They will either refuse to respond to emails, phone calls or deliberately dodge and dance around answering a question like Florida Governor Rick Scott, who recently dodged answering questions to the Press about the Police in Florida.
Jimmy Higgins, an active individual with Virginia Cop Block, activist and independent journalist, has called up to the department on multiple occasions inquiring about the investigation. Mr. Higgins has specifically tried to find out if the investigation has been concluded. Each time, Jimmy has been told either “No Comment” or that “the department is not giving out the results of the investigation.” Brent Solomon told me on July 9th that he called the department that day to inquire about the investigation. Solomon relayed what they said and he told me,“The investigation continues and that they will make a comment after the court proceedings are over.”
I find that interesting for two reasons. The first reason is the P.P.D realizes that if the investigation results show that officer Vance Richards did in fact unjustly assault Devin Thomas (in the head) with a baton, then the two false charges against Thomas would have to be dropped. Thanks to investigative journalist A.J Lagoe, who formally worked with Richmond’s WRIC – 8, we already know that the P.P.D is willing to do what it takes to get a conviction. On a quick side note, it’s very troubling and concerning that these investigations are “internal”. Is that not a conflict of interest? Shouldn’t investigations be independent? Do you think internal investigations are overall effective and productive? What about fair? Here is just one internal investigation that clearly shows the investigator is partial, since they are on the same team.
The second reason I find the P.P.D’s response to Brent Solomon interesting is because of what was said by the Chief Dixon at the News Conference. Ashley Monfort who covers this story mentions that this is the first time Chief Dixon has spoke out about this Thomas incident – which occurred more than a month ago! In the video below Dixon states, “We have not concluded this investigation partly because they have not sat down and talked with us about the investigation so we can’t bring it to a conclusion.” Does it sound like he’s redirecting responsibility?
Dixon’s statement is not entirely accurate. Jimmy Higgins got video footage, which is on Virginia Cop Block’s YouTube Channel of Devin Thomas filing out a complaint at the P.P.D, two days after the incident occurred. Additionally, the day of the protest that was organized outside of the Police Department, Devin was out there for more than 2 hours. Not only could they have had someone talk to him then, but he and his sister, along with Jimmy Higgins and others went inside the lobby to make an “official” request to have a meeting with Chief Dixon regarding this incident. Devin’s sister was given a number to call and I’m not sure what transpired after that. But the police know where he lives, the person(s) investigating the assault could easily and effortlessly call or go by his residence to ask any questions that need to be asked. I realize and understand that at this point, since Devin has acquired counsel he may have been given the directive not to talk to the police, but if the police want to talk to Devin, they can easily do so while Thomas’s attorney is present. These are simply excuses to divert responsibility and stalemate the investigation.
Furthermore, in regards to the Press conference, NBC 12’s story-line stated, “The Petersburg Police Department now has some community support…” and “The Petersburg NAACP and Petersburg Police stood side by side today in hopes of re-establishing trust in Petersburg officers.”
First of all, why is the NAACP supporting and taking sides with the P.P.D rather than Devin Thomas who was brutally assaulted by a P.P.D employee? I think it’s quite the exaggeration to say the “Petersburg Police Department now has some community support” because of one woman, Alzena Mayfield who’s been long time acquaintances with Chief Dixon who decided to be a part of this charade. Where was Mayfield and the Petersburg NAACP more than a month ago when this incident unfolded? She was nowhere to be found.
Before publishing this article I tried calling Mayfield several times for a comment and to confirm she was a member of the NAACP and that the Petersburg Chapter was active and in “good standing” with the National Chapter. Additionally, I emailed her the day after this article was initially published, again trying to get a comment and confirm or not, the legitimate existence of the NAACP chapter in Petersburg.
According to L.J McCoy, President of the NAACP chapter in Chesterfield, the Petersburg Chapter of the NAACP has not been active in 6 or more years. However, Virginia Cop Block learned today (July 23, 2014) that Alenza Mayfield did re-institute the Petersburg NAACP chapter back around the March time-frame of this year. But as a result of the community members not knowing it had been re-established as well as the local NAACP chapter(s) (Chesterfield), it was Robert Brunson who took the initiative and approached Chesterfield NAACP’s leadership, specifically L.J McCoy, who is the President of the Chesterfield NAACP Chapter about supporting and assisting Devin Thomas.
Apparently the media asked about “Outside groups” helping with the Devin Thomas incident, I can only assume the reference is in regards to Virginia Cop Block’s efforts for transparency and accountability. Mayfield went so far to say, “We can deal with anything that goes on in Petersburg.” Really? Who is “We” that you speak of Mrs. Mayfield? Additionally, if you are dealing with issues why have you not once reached out to the victim of this police brutality incident?
The Petersburg Police department will “fight” and “battle” against it’s own community, against transparency and against accountability. Check out this screen-shot from the Petersburg Police Department’s Facebook Page. I realize this is likely not the Department’s “Official” page, it could be, but either way, the page is certainly run by one or more employees of the P.P.D. As you can see, their two statements upset some individuals based on the number of comments.
The goal of the press conference was to create a facade of support, using Dixon’s long time acquaintance Alenza Mayfield who just recently re-established the NAACP chapter in Petersburg. This objective of the facade was an attempt to counter the recent criticism by the Petersburg community, the media and Virginia Cop Block. They are doing what they can to “save face” and retain any amount of credibility they think they have.
Since the Devin Thomas incident, there has been a great demand for both police and judicial system accountability and transparency. As a result, a number of new chapters of Virginia Cop Block have launched to include a chapter in Petersburg.
Ashley Monfort of NBC 12 asked Chief Dixon if his officers were constantly updated in their training. His response was, “They get classroom training on it, two, they get courtroom training on it and three actually, we have a chief of staff that puts out any new legislative things that come down the pipe.” Then Dixon concludes by saying, “I want the community to understand clearly that we are here for them, we are here to represent them.”
If indeed P.P.D employees receive the constant training that Chief Dixon claims they receive and if the Department is really “for them” [the community] then why have there been two recent incidents, to include the Thomas incident of people being assaulted for utilizing their first amendment right (which courts have affirmed time and time again) to record the police? Why has there not been more transparency and any accountability? Why has it taken more than a month for the department to make a statement about the incident?
Sadly and unfortunately, what we are dealing with in Petersburg, is not just an isolated incident. Police abuse, misconduct and brutality is happening daily. With little transparency and accountability while their badges some how grant them the extra rights of “immunity” from their destructive actions. Policing as a whole is out of control in this country, which is why police accountability groups like Cop Block continue to gain traction and support. Cop Block now is nearing 1 Million “Likes” and has a current “Post Reach” of over 25 MILLION.
The police protect and serve themselves. As an Iraq Veteran, I can say and it is evident that the Police in this country have become militarized, with tanks, MRAPS and all sorts of military grade munitions. They will protect themselves and cover their own butts over anything. Lysander Spooner once said, “Those who are capable of tyranny are capable of perjury to sustain it.” We have a problem in this country with gangs, and unfortunately the police are the “largest street gang in the world” according to Deputy Anthony Shevock of the Jackson County Sheriff’s Office (See Picture Below).
I spoke to Deputy Shevock twice on the phone this morning. I asked if if he wanted to elaborate on his comments. He had nothing to say but “No Comment”. I am waiting for a call back from his Supvisor, a Captain in the Sheriff’s Office. This “gang mentality” is not only an internal mindset within police departments, but more and more people are realizing that is what police officers and departments have turned/ turning into as they seem to do more harm than good, in our own communities.
Hopefully, Devin Thomas along with the other family who was assaulted for filming from their own front porch by Petersburg Police Officers can find some justice and accountability. Hopefully the community will continue to band together and take a stand for what is right. To take a stand for peace an non-violence. To take a stand for freedom and individual rights.
(Originally published with this article was a video interview with NAACP Member Robert Brunson, filmed and interviewed by Jimmy Higgins concerning the legitimacy of the Petersburg Chapter. Brunson received inaccurate information from both someone he spoke with up at the National Office as well as his own NAACP Chesterfield Chapter’s President, L.J McCoy. As a result, the video has been removed.)