At a press conference Tuesday afternoon, Charlottesville City Manager Maurice Jones announced his recommendation for Dr. RaShall Brackney to be the City’s next chief of police. Brackney will be formally appointed at the next Council meeting May 21, and her term as police chief is currently set to begin June 18.
Brackney is a retired 30-year member of the Pittsburgh Bureau of Police and the former Chief of Police of George Washington University.
Jones said Brackney was the top choice out of a pool of 169 applicants, and added that she and five other candidates underwent an interview process with two community panels, a police staff panel, a group of city department directors and the City Council.
“During her time in Pittsburgh she was deeply committed to building strong relationships between the residents and the police officers who serve and protect them,” Jones said. “Chief Brackney is very mindful of the expectations of modern police departments and I’m confident she will work diligently to ensure the men and women of the Charlottesville Police Department continue to live up to those high standards.”
Brackney said that the City of Charlottesville can serve as a role model for better policing strategies around the country.
“I believe that law enforcement is at a crossroads right now when we talk about how we police and how we engage the community,” Brackney said. “I think Charlottesville is uniquely positioned to start that conversation and reshape that narrative for the nation — on how we engage community, how we engage officers and how we really do change what law enforcement looks like today.”
“It does not fall on deaf ears that there are a lot of people who feel marginalized — not only in Charlottesville but throughout the nation — and that we've created gaps between the persons that we serve and our law enforcement community,” Brackney added.
Charlottesville Mayor Nikuyah Walker said she was confident in Brackney’s ability to address the long standing issues regarding policing strategies in the city.
“There was a refreshing interview and conversation that took place when Dr. Brackney came before us,” Walker said. “I was very hopeful for the things we need in this city, the things we’ve been lacking for a long time.”
Walker added that community members must be patient with Brackney as she begins her term. Many of the issues which the police department faces will require time and effort to remedy, Walker said.
“I hope that you as a community do welcome our next police chief with open arms and embrace and patience because we know the changes we are asking her to undertake — the depth of them, they go really deep,” Walker said. “And we know it’s not going to be an immediate fix to do her work and [to] not be overburdened is going to take us as a community to change also.”
Near the end of the meeting an audience member — local activist and Charlottesville resident Tanesha Hudson — directly addressed Brackney and said that she must demand the respect of presumably the City Council and the Charlottesville Police Department in her new role.
“Demand respect,” Hudson said. “They have a huge respect issue, okay. So make sure you walk in demanding they respect you, and they respect your authority because that’s a huge issue here.”
If appointed, Brackney will be succeeding , who took over from former chief Al Thomas. Thomas from the position in December amid criticism of his and the Charlottesville Police Department’s response to the deadly white nationalist demonstrations of Aug. 12.
In particular, an independent review of the City’s conducted by former U.S. Attorney Tim Heaphy alleged that Thomas allowed for violent clashes to take place between white nationalist demonstrators and counter protesters in order to declare an unlawful assembly in Emancipation Park — a claim which Thomas has disputed.
Previously, Brackney worked as the chief of police at George Washington University.
According to LinkedIn, she holds a Ph.D. in instructional management and leadership from Robert Morris University. She has also been a police commander for the City of Pittsburgh and an adjunct professor at Carnegie Mellon University.