Fredericksburg Mayor Katherine Greenlaw has adopted a three-part plan to address racial inequality and discrimination after protesters clashed with city police and the Stafford County Sheriffs Office in late May and early June.
The first phase of the plan will review police practices while interacting with the public as well as have social workers or mental health professionals partner with law enforcement on some of their roles and responsibilities.
The goal of the second phase will be to work on potential police reform measures. The final step will focus on hearing from the Fredericksburg community to shape their priorities as they generate a draft of its Vision, Desired Future States, and Priorities for review.
Council members’ voted unanimously on the plan with a commitment to engage the community on discussions about racial disparities.
During the city council meeting on June 23, Greenlaw apologized for the treatment that protesters received by police during demonstrations on May 31 and June 1.
Greenlaw said she never imagined the words “tear gas” would ever be associated with Fredericksburg but confirmed that police used the irritant on protesters.
“The people in our streets on the night of May 31 were motivated to protest by righteous anger and genuine pain,” Greenlaw said. “I know that the use of tear gas shocked and frightened them. I apologize to those who went through this fearful experience.”
Greenlaw said a thorough investigation is being conducted regarding the protests on both days and added that a full report would be provided to the community.
Ryan Vera Brown of Leaders for Peace said he was upset that police used tear gas and wants an independent review of their actions. He also said charges against arrested protesters should be dropped.
“We feel like what happened to us on the 31st and [June] 1st was a gross violation of our rights,” Brown said.
Stafford County Sheriff’s Office Major Shawn Kimmitz said smoke and pepper balls were used earlier this month after protesters unlawfully assembled.
Kimmitz said protesters threw rocks and bottles as well as blocked blocked a vehicle in the road.