VIDEO: Petersburg Police Department’s Charade Press Conference (Correction)

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?

NBC12.com – Richmond, VA News

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.

Screenshot from Petersburg Police Department FB Page

Screenshot from Petersburg Police Department FB Page

 

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). 

Police Gang

 

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.)

  • Here’s how it works. After the incident and media blast, the chief of police called the city of petersburg’s city manager. The City Manager called the Petersburg Commonwealth Attorney – they all(3) sat down and quarterbacked this response. In actuality, the chief was the least of the (3) in charge. He defers to the City Manager because the CM writes his paycheck. I surmise that they approached this from a liability perspective. It’s their job to protect the municipality at all cost. The path to least resistance is their focus. As with any government, none will admit wrong doing IF after the investigation, there is any nook or care acne with which they can hang their sovereign immunity hat on. Devon’s only hope is a federal civil rights lawsuit where he has the opportunity to prove that he was victim of a municiple policy that violated his constitutional rights. Racism is going to be hard to build because the chief is black. Brutality and failing to properly train the officers may be a good place to start.

    • Liberty4all

      1983 fed lawsuit (civil rights violation under color of state law)
      Shd try to get a judge to get a special CA or convene a special grand jury

      • This will cost Petersburg nothing. The Virginia Municipal league(insures the town) will come in with their attorneys and deny at all cost. They would rather the firm suck up all the money than an injured party because it deters others from suing the Govt. I did an article on municipal insurance cooperates thwarting injured citizens thru predatory law firms who make all the money. Thefullcourtpress.org a title 42 section 1983 was what I was referring to. Success rate with those Jim Crow lawsuits is like less than 10%. Regardless the problem is the insurance cooperative hindering people from being made whole after they were injured.

      • Special CA/SGJ only come into play if the CA thinks a crime may have been committed. Highly unlikely. At best the guy abused his descretion and he will get qualified immunity from any state tort action unless Devon can prove malice against him or “mens re”. His best shot is proving an unconstitutional policy under color of law or that the policy was willfully violated.

        Like I told Nate, I do not believe this is the case that should travel through the courts for the next seven years. The kid is going to end up w no money and the attorneys will get it all. Good activism could use this to change Petersburg policies and help the citizens with much less effort – IMHO Devon should take one for the team and focus on getting relief to Petersburg citizens now instead of 100k in 7yrs. (Even that is a crapshoot)

        • Liberty4all

          Good points, all
          Better to make the Ins co pay, which ultimately is passed on to Pburg, and to get the publicity. Of course, most state judges would invoke sovereign immunity, but in fed court it’s a crap shoot.
          There are lotsa starving attys around now…the video would get one

          • That’s true, I made the argument already however… From an activism perspective there’s other techniques to bring relief to the community. If everyone started suing the policies would change or the laws.

  • Trotting out that fake NAACP rep to back the PD’s beating of a black person really damages any credibility the boys in blue ever had. It’s good that the real NAACP is involved. Hopefully they will make some progress and the public will get behind them.

  • Liberty4all

    At a minimum, this investigation should be conducted by the Virginia State Police, or a distant Commonwealth’s Attorney (prosecutor), or IDEALLY, a special grand jury

  • tiffany cole

    devin thomas was found guilty of disorderly conduct and resisting arrest in petersburg general district court the cop was never made accountable for the excessive force used in arresting this young man it is not necessary or reasonable for a cop to club a man over the head to drag them to the police station we are not in the caveman era this was a frail young teen against more than one trained police officer certainly the cops could have used better methods in detaining him this can not be the standard for how cops conduct these type of arrest the disorderly conduct charge was for merely cursing at cops from public street not some violent offense devin thomas posed no physical threat to any cop or other individual but he was met with extreme violence at the hand of the cop arresting him for a petty offense the judges is petersburg are extremely bias to their cops in court the cops testimony might as well be written in stone in my opiniion the cop was angered by the filming and found a flimsy excuse to arrest devin thomas disorderly conduct is all kinds of vague i hope the young man seeks appeal to court where he has better chances like i said you won’t get a fair shake against a cop in petersburg court system the judge pool is tainted

  • tiffany cole

    take internal investigations into petersburg police actions with not a grain but a bowl full of salt the internal affairs department of petersburg police will call the head of operations in the department for instructions on how to handle a criminial complaint against a cop whatever head of operations in the police department says goes the complaint will be shut down and you will be shooed away