Portsmouth police chief tells officers not to contact FBI regarding racism investigation

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PORTSMOUTH, Va. (WAVY) — 10 On Your Side has obtained a copy of an internal memo sent by the interim Portsmouth police chief to staff directing officers not to contact the FBI in connection to an ongoing investigation into alleged systemic racism within the city’s police department.

The memo also directs officers to contact the Portsmouth city attorney’s office if the FBI asks to speak to them so that they will be “accompanied during the interview.”

Interim Portsmouth Police Chief Angela Green gave the written directive after an April 26 meeting:

“Chief Green provided clarification regarding the legal Hold Notice memorandum from the City Attorney. In accordance with the legal hold put into place, officers will not contact the FBI directly regarding the federal inquiry. If the FBI contacts an officer requesting to be interviewed, the officer must notify the City Attorney’s Office so that the officer will be accompanied during the interview.”

Portsmouth City Attorney Solomon Ashby, Jr. did not respond immediately to a request for comment from 10 On Your Side. FBI spokeswoman Christina Pullen declined to comment on Greene’s directive.

Portsmouth spokesperson LaVoris Pace said in a written statement that the legal hold notice doesn’t prohibit police department employees from reaching out to the FBI, but is issued when there is “a need to preserve documentation in connection with a potential legal matter.”

10 On Your Side first reported that the FBI was looking into allegations of systemic racism within the Portsmouth Poice Department on April 9 after Andy Fox had an exclusive interview with former Portsmouth Police Chief Tonya Chapman.

Chapman said she was forced to resign from her job as police chief  in March by Portsmouth City Manager Dr. Lydia Pettis-Patton after some police officers in the department lost confidence in her. She said she asked Pettis-Patton for a specific reason for her resignation, but the city manager offered none.

On March 25 Chapman sent out an open letter in which she said she was met with resistance from some members of the Portsmouth police as she tried to change the department’s culture. She also alleged that she witnessed “bias and acts of systemic racism, discriminatory practices, and abuse of authority” while working with the Portsmouth Police Department.

Chapman turned over examples of systemic racism and discriminatory practices to the FBI for its ongoing investigation. The Portsmouth NAACP also met with the FBI.

The Portsmouth Police Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment for this story.

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