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How Charlottesville's First Black Police Chief Ended Up Being Fired

The Washington Post tells the story behind the firing of Charlottesville, Va., Police Chief RaShall Brackney, which has led to a $10 million lawsuit by Brackney against the city and 10 officials, alleging racial and gender discrimination and that her firing was retaliation for her efforts to root out problematic policing. Last year, an internal meeting prompted Brackney to unholster her gun and held it by her side as she left headquarters. The first Black woman to head the department wasn’t worried about protesters who were a frequent presence outside or street crime. The threat she perceived was a handful of officers who served under her. An internal probe of the SWAT team found widespread issues, including officers making crass racial remarks and one apparently showing a trainee how to hide misconduct.


In a text, one disgruntled member wrote they should “take out” command staff, a comment Brackney took seriously but some officers believed was just blowing off steam. Brackney had been hired after the “Unite the Right” rally in 2017, when white supremacists descended on Charlottesville and made it nationally synonymous with hate. City officials wanted her to restore public trust in a force that badly fumbled the mayhem, modernize the department and address racial inequalities in policing. Brackney said revelations about the 15-member SWAT team were glaring examples of what needed to be reformed in the department’s culture, but her move to discipline some members set off a chain of events that led to her firing months later. Mayor Lloyd Snook said Brackney’s termination was about her lack of effective leadership, not reform efforts. He said rank-and-file officers had lost faith in her and were leaving, creating a crisis.


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