WINDSOR, Va. – The Windsor Police Department is hoping to rebuild trust with the small community. Town council members unanimously voted Tuesday night to bring in an outside company to review and update its policies for traffic enforcement and use of force.
“I think it gives the community more confidence in the agency and what we’re doing,” said Windsor Police Chief Dan Riddle. “It’s making sure you’re following best practice standards and that you have that outside set of eyes coming in saying, 'This is not working the way we want it to; you probably need to dial it back or change it differently,' and it’s always good to have somebody from outside take a look at it because you may miss things.”
The changes come after an officer’s body cam video went viral, leaving a black eye on the department.
Two officers attempted to conduct a traffic stop on Dec. 5, 2020, and drew their guns on Army Lt. Caron Nazario. A now-former officer, Joe Gutierrez, was shown pepper spraying him in the face.
Gutierrez was fired after the body camera video went viral. Riddle expects to start the application process to fill the position in a couple of weeks.
“I’m disappointed that it took this incident to encourage the police department to move forward,” said Isle of Wight NAACP President Valerie Butler.
The department will use Lexipol, a digital platform that makes sure police procedures are in line with the state’s and keep officers up to speed with new laws on the books.
The town council budgeted $25,748 from its Unappropriated Fund Balance for the Lexipol policy service.
Chief Riddle said they will try to offset the cost by applying for federal aid through the CARES Act passed by Congress at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.
According to Riddle, it’s worth the investment to stay current with changing legislation, expectations and training requirements, which he said is tough to do with a small staff of six.
“The policy parts are important and for a small agency, it’s a very tedious process,” he said.
Riddle said his officers completed a four-hour implicit bias course on April 26. On May 26 and May 27, officers will attend training classes on de-escalation tactics and conducting safe traffic stops and will review the use-of-force policy.
“The bottom line is we got some things to fix,” said Riddle. “We’re going to keep pushing forward, working to improve the level of services we’re able to provide to the town, increase our professionalism and that’s the direction we’re going to keep going.”
Butler said the new changes are a start to rebuilding trust, but they don’t go far enough.
“At this point, we're looking for accountability, transparency and truthfulness from the police department,” said Butler.
The Isle of Wight NAACP is also calling for ongoing training, a citizen’s review board and for a Black officer to work on the force.
The police department is also changing its hiring policy. Moving forward, a newly created panel will sit in on and conduct interviews. The panel will include two community members, one council member and two WPD personnel.