Police chief on leave after confederate statue charges

Cover Image
Photo credit File-Senate President Pro Tempore, Sen. Louise Lucas speaks during a debate on the Senate floor at the Capitol Sunday, March 8, 2020, in Richmond, Va. Lucas, 76, a Black woman and high-ranking Democratic power broker, stood near the 56-foot (17-meter) memorial in the city of Portsmouth. Police said she was with a group of people shaking up cans of spray paint. “(T)hey gonna do it, and you can’t stop them … they got a right, go ahead!” police claim Lucas said. Lucas’s alleged statements are in a probable cause summary police filed last week. Two felony charges say she and several others conspired to damage the 19th Century memorial during a protest. (AP Photo/Steve Helber, File)
By The Associated Press

PORTSMOUTH, Va. (AP) — The police chief in Portsmouth, Virginia, is on paid leave nearly three weeks after her department charged a state senator and several others from the city's Black community with conspiring to a damage a Confederate monument.

City spokeswoman Dana Woodson confirmed in an email on Friday that Chief Angela Greene is on leave and that an assistant police chief will assume her duties in the meantime.

The city declined to comment further. No one answered the telephone Friday at a number listed for Greene.

Allies of State Sen. Louise Lucas in Richmond have called the felony charges against her legally weak and political. The case is based on words that police say Lucas spoke in the hours before protesters ripped heads off Confederate statues and pulled one down, critically injuring a demonstrator.

Some legal observers say that Lucas' alleged statements are protected speech. The charges were filed without the cooperation of the local prosecutor's office. And they were issued the day before state lawmakers met to work on police reforms, including ones that Lucas — a high ranking-Democrat — has championed.

Lucas and several others face counts of conspiracy to commit a felony and injury to a monument in excess of $1,000. Other people who were charged included a school board member as well as members of the local NAACP chapter and public defender’s office.

Lucas is being charged at a time when many memorials to the Confederacy are being taken down, whether by demonstrators opposed to racial injustice or by authorities seeking to dismantle them through official channels. The monuments have long been viewed by many as symbols of white supremacy. But they’ve drawn increasing attention following the death of George Floyd, a Black man who died in Minneapolis police custody.

Greene became Portsmouth's police chief in 2019 after chief Tonya Chapman resigned.