Charlottesville Police Chief Retires After Criticism over Rally Response

Sarah Beth Hensley, WTOP, December 18, 2017

The Charlottesville, Virginia, police chief announced his immediate retirement Monday. The abrupt departure comes amid criticism of the police response to the violent white nationalist rally over the summer.

Charlottesville Police Chief Al Thomas’ retirement was effective immediately, according to a release from the department. Although the reason for his immediate retirement is not clear, Thomas had come under fire following the August white nationalist rally.

A recent investigation by former U.S. Attorney Tim Heaphy found the law enforcement response to the rally was marred by a series of major failures that put citizens’ lives at risk. Heapy said Thomas took a “misguidedly passive” approach to quelling the violence that erupted on Charlottesville streets both before and after police declared the “United the Right” rally at Emancipation Park unlawful and ordered the crowds dispersed.

As the first signs of open violence broke out on Charlottesville’s Market Street, the police chief reportedly said, “Let them fight, it will make it easier to declare an unlawful assembly,’” according to the report.

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The report also said Thomas deleted relevant text messages and made officers fearful of retaliation for speaking with investigators.

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