Portsmouth’s city manager addresses former police chief’s alleged forced resignation

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PORTSMOUTH, Va. (WAVY) — There were tight lips and tense moments at the Portsmouth city council meeting Tuesday night.

For the first time, the Portsmouth city manager is addressing the controversy behind the alleged forced resignation of former police chief Tonya Chapman.

Meanwhile, city leaders have also decided to hold off on talks for a proposed committee to address racial issues in the community.

One month after Chapman said she was forced out of her role, the city manager finally released a statement that praised the former chief’s accomplishments but also said there were concerns with her leadership. 

In the statement, Pettis Patton says:

“The City of Portsmouth was proud to hire Virginia’s first female African American police chief and, during her tenure with the Portsmouth Police Department, there is no doubt that Tonya Chapman made great strides to improve community relations, further diversify our police force, and make our neighborhoods safer.  Her departure is an employment issue based solely on concerns with leadership of the department. We remain committed to a diverse police force that is representative of the community. The allegations being made against the Portsmouth Police Department are very serious and the City will cooperate fully with the appropriate authorities to make sure they are properly addressed.”

She refused to answer follow up questions from our Andy Fox about the statement before Tuesday’s city council meeting.

As for the cultural committee, city leaders said they need more time to figure it all out.

The committee’s purpose is to explore issues of race, ethnicity, equity and culture within the city. 10 On Your Side spoke with Mayor John Rowe, who said he doesn’t believe there is a deep-rooted racism issue in Portsmouth, but he said a cultural committee is needed to bring people together and understand their differences as the city moves forward.

However that comment did not sit well with members of the NAACP.

“I’m flabbergasted Mayor, that you wouldn’t understand that racism abounds in this city, that you would have the audacity and gall to go on TV and say ‘well I don’t know that racism exists here.’ Well let me tell you racism exists here in the city of Portsmouth,” said one NAACP member.

“Other members (city council) have said there is no issue except you propose a committee to talk about a non-issue. It doesn’t make sense,” said another NAACP member.

We will continue to follow this story and let you know what happens.

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