CHESAPEAKE, Va. (WAVY) — Chesapeake Police Chief Kelvin Wright doesn’t tolerate officers who lie on the job.
“Let’s just say this: It’s a bright-line offense for us,” Wright said. “I’ll put it this way, you lie, you die … In other words, you know that is a career-ender.”
Wright has never shied away from enforcing his own department’s policy on honesty, which states that officers will be fired if they lie in an official document or during an official proceeding, like an internal affairs investigation.
“I have fired everyone who has lied, and for the most part, I have been very successful,” Wright said.
Until recently, firing dishonest officers from his department was Wright’s only option. Those officers would remain certified to work in law enforcement in Virginia and could move on to jobs at other police departments.
“Someone who knows that they’re in trouble could resign from an agency, from here or any other police department, and go to another one and catch on because they’re certified,” Wright said. “I think that we needed to stop that practice right away.”
That practice did change on March 1 when a new law went into effect. It expanded decertifiable offenses to include dishonesty and using excessive force to the list of reasons officers must be banned from policing in Virginia. Previously, officers could only be decertified if they were convicted of a felony or certain misdemeanor crimes, failed a drug test, or didn’t keep up with their training.
Wright sits on the Department of Criminal Justice’s Decertification Board. He fully supports the new law and said his peers do, too.
“I think what the [Virginia] General Assembly has done is the right thing. We’ve been advocating for this for years,” Wright said.
Prior to March, 82 police officers were decertified in Virginia over the course of 22 years, according to Department of Criminal Justice Services data, which goes back to 1999. As a result of the new law, more than 30 police officers have been decertified in 2021 — many for lying during internal investigations. Those include four Chesapeake police officers who were kicked off the force in September after lying during internal affairs investigations, according to DCJS decertification data.
Wright sat down with 10 On Your Side’s investigative team. He was limited in what he could say about the decertified officers, but did confirm that they were fired but aren’t under criminal investigation. For that reason, 10 On Your Side is not naming the officers in this report.
BELOW: Full interview with the Chesapeake police chief.
“We inform officers from the beginning of their career how important it is for them to be truthful with us because we’re making decisions that involve people’s lives, their livelihoods, their freedom, their property, and we are concerned to make sure we are doing things the right way,” Wright said.
At least one of those decertified officers has hired an attorney and is in the process of resolving their case. His attorney says the officer and the city have come to a mutual agreement to end his employment in Chesapeake with a rehirable status. As of Friday, his attorney was working on the next steps to get that officer recertified to work in law enforcement in Virginia.
10 On Your Side investigators attempted to contact the other three police officers for comment, but received no response before publication.