Members of the Charlottesville community gathered Monday evening at Carver Recreation Center to hear from the three final candidates for Charlottesville chief of police — Latroy Durrette, Michael Kochis and Easton McDonald. Candidates answered pre-selected questions from community members and the general public, many of which focused on accountability structures and community engagement.
The event was sponsored by the Police Civilian Oversight Board and was moderated by the board’s chair William Mendes Jr.
Charlottesville Police Department has not had a permanent police chief since former chief RaShall Brackney was fired in December 2021. Following her firing, Brackney filed a wrongful termination lawsuit against the City of Charlottesville alleging racial and gender-based discrimination.
Durrette has been a CPD officer since 1993 and acting chief of police since Brackney was fired. Durrette previously served as captain and support operation division commander. His responsibilities included leading the department’s SWAT team, which was disbanded by Brackley following an internal review that uncovered threatening messages, explicit sexual content between women and officers, racist and sexist remarks and various violations of duty.
During the forum, Durrette stressed the importance of community engagement, personal accountability and healing, especially following the summer of 2017. On Aug. 11, protesters marched down the Lawn brandishing torches and chanting homophobic and anti-semetic slurs. This event was followed by the deadly “Unite the Right” rally Aug. 12 when a man ultimately drove his car into a crowd of counter-protesters the next day, killing resident Heather Heyer and injuring several others.
When asked what motivates him, Durrette spoke about the need for action in order to bring about collective healing in Charlottesville.
“It’s not just enforcing the rule of law, it’s building connections with the community,” Durrette said. “We have to recognize that we failed at some point in 2017. We failed. Now we have to change that perception, and that is by getting involved in our communities, heaving what they have to say, and then being a department of action to address those concerns.”
Kochis has been chief of police in Warrenton since 2020, where his force has garnered attention for its anonymous rating service, which allows civilians to rate their interactions with officers. He also served as a commander in the Alexandria Police Department from 2004 to 2019.
Like Durrette, Kochis is focused on promoting community involvement in policing. After being asked about how he would rebuild trust between Charlottesville residents and the police force, Kochis emphasized the need to reconcile the ways officers have failed their communities.
“The co-production of public safety with the community is something our profession was founded on, so where did we lose our way?” Kochis said. “Trust is complex. It’s going to take time, it’s going to take a lot of hard work, but shame on me if I’m not willing to do it.”
McDonald has been a major-division commander in Loudoun County since March 2021, where he is responsible for overseeing the department’s operational support division. He has 25 years of law enforcement experience and has worked in the Loudoun County sheriff’s office since 2001.
During the forum, McDonald stressed the importance of community feedback for police — both positive and negative — and the need for accountability. When asked about preventing disparate policing, McDonald called on community members to provide police officers feedback on their performance.
“You’re the ones that are not members of the [police] department and may feel that you can be victim to [mistreatment],” McDonald said. “You will constantly have to deal with law enforcement, so you need to report it, good and bad, and then give me a chance to fix it.”
According to Charlottesville Mayor Lloyd Snook, the final candidate should be announced by next week after they are selected by Interim City Manager Michael C. Rogers and approved by City Council.