NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) – The Norfolk branch of the NAACP said it lacks confidence in the process that saw the city hire Hampton Police Chief Mark Talbot to be Norfolk’s police chief and said there should be “an immediate discontinuation of the current hiring process.”
“We are requesting the entire process be done in collaboration with the community,” the Norfolk NAACP said in a statement Thursday. “We have reasonable cause to believe that the City Manager, Chip Filer, misused his authority and implemented biased practices by selected (Mark) Talbot as the new Chief of Police.”
Mayor Kenny Alexander, in a statement Friday, said it was up to Filer to decide on a police chief.
“Choosing the process and ultimately selecting a police chief are both the responsibilities of the city manager,” Alexander said. “In fact, they are at sole discretion of the city manager. I have no authority, nor council members over the process and selection of a police chief.”
10 On Your Side reached out to members of Norfolk City Council. Only John Paige, a member of the NAACP, weighed in. He agreed that the group was slighted.
“What the citizens are asking for is not anything special,” Paige said. “They’re asking for the transparency that we told them they would get. They’re just asking us to do what we said we would do.”
Paige said that now, neighboring cities may have concerns about Norfolk’s credibility – initially bringing Talbot in to consult on the process, though he said Talbot may be a great addition to the city.
“Now, the greatest thing is we have a chief coming in who could be the answer to our prayers,” Paige said, ” but … Talbot’s tenure will be clouded by how it began. This right here is one that we didn’t have room to make this kind of mistake considering the current state of things.”
Norfolk NAACP branch president Stacie Armstead said in a phone interview with WAVY Friday that it did not have a say in the police chief selection project. Though there were public feedback sessions, Armstead said that, as a community leadership group, they were promised the chance to sit down with the decision makers, but said that never happened.
There were questions that still linger about why former Norfolk Police Chief Larry Boone abruptly retired last year, and more questions have been raised about the unexpected selection of Talbot, as he was involved in the screening process for other chief candidates.
The Norfolk NAACP noted that NPD was accredited by the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies and “heavily recruited” NAACP members to take part, committing to ideals of community-oriented policing, and that NPD would increase community advocacy. It said the search that led to Talbot’s selection violates three pivotal concepts within the accreditation standard – integrity, transparency and accountability – and community confidence.
It asked whether Talbot applied for the position and went through the vetting process.
“We have serious ethical concerns and questions about Mr. Filer and the City Council practices and guiding principles of the Norfolk Police Department,” the Norfolk NAACP said, “A lack of ethics and transparency in this situation is unacceptable and will lead to negative consequences in the community.”
It said it attempted to “have a dialogue” with the Morris & McDaniel Management Consultants “to no avail.”
“To be clear, we were ignored,” the Norfolk NAACP said. “In addition, the Branch has yet to receive a call from the City Manager to be included in the process; again, we were ignored.
“Throughout the selection process, the public, including civil and civic organizations, was sidelined, and the process was relegated to ‘covert back door practices.'”
Not only did the Norfolk NAACP call for a halt to Talbot’s hiring, it called for a community town hall with community stakeholders and civil rights advocates to have updates and discussions on:
- Beginning the rehiring process, excluding Mr. Talbot, and the process that allowed Norfolk’s City Manager to disregard and undermine the public confidence in this critical hire in search of Norfolk’s top Police Officer.
- Implementation of an NPD Citizen Review Board.
- In dept(h) examination of the police culture, as it pertains to current force-shaping and Community Engagement.
- Eradication of racist, sexist, homophobic and classist practices.
Our community’s safety and security are key priorities that cannot be taken lightly or to chance,” the Norfolk NAACP said. “In addition, our Branch prides itself on being an organization with a strong history that values public trust. Therefore, we have taken a high interest in forging relationships with the Norfolk City Council and the Norfolk Police Department to improve community outreach efforts and build trust between citizens and law enforcement.”
The Norfolk NAACP said it was critical of what it described as Filer’s “deceitful and covert practices by having a closed press conference to the furtherance of silencing the community.”