An investigation by 8News Investigative Reporter A.J. Lagoe exposes Richmond’s Public Housing Police Department playing by its own rules and making arrests—where they have no right to make them. VCU professor Jayasimha Atulasimha was pulled over by police.“I was just pulled over for whatever, a wrong turn,” he says.
But this story is not about a driver’s wrong turn. It is about the wrong turn Richmond’s Public Housing Police Department took at its very inception.
The death of the RRHA Police Department has been headline news since April 1 when it was shut down with no warning.
A former officer agreed to speak with us on the condition we protect his identity.
“You’re dealing with people’s lives. You’re dealing with officer’s jobs, their careers,” the former RRHA police officer says. “You don’t lie to us. You don’t lie to the people.”
The lie the officer is referring to was written right on RRHA PD’s web page “the department provides city-wide law enforcement authority which enables officers to make arrests on and off RRHA property.”
A.J. Lagoe: ”When you worked for RRHA PD, you made arrests off of RRHA property?”
Former RRHA Officer: ”Absolutely on numerous occasions. At the time we were informed by the chief of police as well as the command staff we had city wide jurisdiction.”
But who granted the public housing police, authority to make arrests off public housing property? Our investigation discovered the answer to that is – no one.
But less than two weeks after we began demanding records spelling out the department’s jurisdiction, Goolsby sent out a press release announcing the police department was being “discontinued” in order to focus on “the core mission of providing housing services.”
A couple days later, they wrote to 8News regarding our demands for proof of their claim to city wide jurisdiction that they had “no additional records.”
A.J. Lagoe: “Do you think there are people sitting in jail sitting in prison today for arrests you made that now you’re questioning?”
Former RRHA Officer: “I know there are! I know it!”
The Richmond Commonwealth Attorney’s office is looking into this situation and has written a letter to RRHA telling them to preserve all their arrest records. We’ve reached out to former Chief Hazelton’s attorney and have received no response.
What does this mean for people who were arrested by this department?
If you were arrested or ticketed by RRHA officers off of RRHA property, you may have a case to see your conviction overturned. The commonwealth attorney says if people come to his office with questions about one of these arrests, they’ll review them on a case by case basis.
Copyright 2014 by Young Broadcasting of Richmond