WINDSOR, Va. (WAVY) — Windsor’s police chief has revealed his plans to help the department move forward from the negativity it’s faced following the now nationally-known traffic stop in which a U.S. Army officer was held at gunpoint and pepper-sprayed.
Windsor Police Chief Rodney Riddle said he hopes to help regain community trust by revising policies and procedures, increasing officer training, overhauling the department’s hiring process and stepping up on community policing efforts by reducing police’s role in traffic enforcement.
He said some of the initiatives, such as requiring all officers to undergo four hours of the Virginia Association of Chiefs of Police implicit bias training, is already underway. Others could cost money and need approval from Windsor Town Council.
Riddle is optimistic these efforts will all make a difference.
‘We’re going to get the best information that we can have and the best practices and policies we can put in place to protect our community,” Riddle said.
Riddle outlined his four prong approach to Town Council Tuesday evening, 12 days after police body camera video of the Dec. 5 traffic stop — which is now at the center of a federal lawsuit — was first published in the media.
The video shows’ U.S. Army 2nd Lt. Caron Nazario, who is Black and Latino, being pepper-sprayed during the stop by Officer Joe Gutierrez and put into handcuffs after he did not comply with Gutierrez and Officer Daniel Crocker’s orders to get out of his vehicle.
The officers had pulled over Nazario for not having a visible rear license plate displayed and classified the stop as high risk because Nazario didn’t immediately stop and the tint on his SUV prevented them from seeing into the vehicle. In the lawsuit, Nazario said he was both scared and confused by conflicting orders.
After he was pepper-sprayed, he was treated by medics then later released by the officers and allowed to leave the scene.
In a press conference last week, Riddle said the video “upset” him and that the officers “missed opportunities to de-escalate the situation.”
Investigations into the department have been now been launched by the FBI, the Virginia State Police and the Virginia attorney general. Gutierrez was fired after Riddle said he “lost confidence” in his ability to serve.
While the NAACP has also called for Riddle to resign and for Crocker to be fired, both have backing from town leadership.
“We work for the community members here in Windsor,” Riddle reiterated Tuesday evening.
In order to help keep up with strong police policy in the “fast-paced and ever-changing legislative environment,” Riddle has pitched spending nearly $26,000 for the department to use the services of Lexipol, LLC. It’s a company that “provides police departments with policies and up-to-date revisions based upon changes in laws and guidance,” according to a resolution.
Riddle said the service will make all the difference in increasing the skillset of his small department of seven.
“In 10 years, I had never seen a traffic stop like [Nazario’s],” Riddle said. “Where does that come from? How do we get ahead of that? What skillsets can we give our officers to better handle these situations?”
While Town Council members were not yet ready to make a vote on spending the funds, Riddle also announced that arrangements have been made for the company Command Presence to come do a weekend of de-escalation training at the end of May. The town would only be responsible for travel expenses.
In response to residents’ concerns about having a more diverse force, Riddle has proposed a hiring panel that would be made up of two police employees, two citizens from the community and one member of the Town Council.
“We want to hear from some different people get some different perspectives and what are the things the member of community are looking for in their policemen,” Riddle said
Finally, Riddle wants to try to squash the narrative that Windsor is a speed trap that disproportionally impacts minorities.
Nazario was pulled over for speeding by a Windsor police officer in November.
Riddle wants the town to invest in speed measurement devices along Route 460 to help
eliminate the need for officers running radar.
“Reduces your citizen encounters, which in turn reduces your critical incidents,” Riddle said. He believes it will also allow officers more time to work at making contacts in the community.
The council workshop he made his remarks at was meant to appease those who called for greater discussion surrounding race and community in the town of 2,600. Only one person showed up.
Mayor Glyn Willis said more will be planned and hopes to see more of a turnout in the future.
“Were not perfect and we’re not close, but we’re trying,’ Riddle said.