RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) – Richmond police chief Alfred Durham called the overnight vandalism of the city’s police memorial a “cowardly act” on Wednesday.
“As a law enforcement community, as a community in Richmond, it’s very disheartening,” Chief Durham said, addressing a crowd of reporters and members of the public.
At around 6 a.m., police received a call that the bronze statue of a police officer had been vandalized. Someone used red spray paint to mark the face of the statue, as well as a large ‘x’ crossing the officer’s body. On the ground, the phrase, ‘Justice for Alton’ was written, a reference to Alton Sterling, who was shot and killed by police last week.
The statue recently moved from its longtime location in Festival Park to Byrd park, is a tribute to 28 officers who lost their lives in the line of duty.
“This is a cowardly act for someone to come and air his or her grievances at a memorial in honor of 28 police officers who proudly served this individual,” Durham said. The vandalism comes on the heels of several community building events between Richmond Police and the public, including a community conversation at Martin Luther King Middle School on crime, race, and policing.
“Richmond, I thought was a step or two above this,” said retired officer Glen Burley. “But, I’m not surprised in one way. Certainly, this is a despicable act of just serving no purpose at all.”
Burley served alongside several of the officers memorialized by the statue.
Several family members of officers honored at the memorial were in attendance, including one man whose grandfather was among the deceased officers.
“We’ve got a lot of things going on in this country, but one thing I can say with confidence is that we don’t see the issues that are surrounding other law enforcement agencies in this country here in our city,” said Durham. “We have a wonderful city, we have a diverse city.”
Durham challenged whoever was bold enough to vandalize the statue, to also be bold enough to come forward to police, adding that the department is working to preserve the morale of personnel. “Right now, they’re on edge,” the chief told reporters. “We got an anonymous call, a threat on Saturday, then you have something like this (vandalism). A lot of questions are going through their minds.”
Durham said officers took the report on Wednesday’s overnight vandalism, canvassed the area, and asked residents at nearby homes about surveillance video, ultimately finding no footage that covers the memorial. He added that the department is asking anyone who saw any suspicious activity near the statue to report it immediately to police.
Since the vandalism, numerous supporters have brought flowers to the memorial, sent messages to police, and addressed them to personally apologize for the destructive activity.