The police chief in Portsmouth, Va., was fired on Monday, the same day that criminal charges she had supported against 19 people — including a powerful Democratic state senator — for damaging a Confederate monument during a June protest were dropped.
The former chief, Angela Greene, told an NBC affiliate that she had been fired by the city’s interim manager. Greene’s termination was confirmed by a city spokeswoman, Dana Woodson, who declined to comment further on the matter. Greene, 46, joined the department in August 2016 and became chief in June 2019. She is African-American.
The charges that the Police Department filed against the 19 people stemmed from a June 10 episode in which protesters vandalized a Confederate monument in downtown Portsmouth. Police officers intervened only when one of the protesters was injured hours later, according to court documents acquired by the New York Times.
In August, a Portsmouth police officer, Sgt. Kevin McGee, filed felony charges against the 19 people, including State Senator L. Louise Lucas and leaders of the Portsmouth N.A.A.C.P., related to damage protesters had caused to the monument.
On Monday, a judge granted a request by the Portsmouth Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office to dismiss all charges against the defendants. The commonwealth’s attorney, Stephanie Morales, noted in the request that inaction by the police during the June 10 episode most likely led protesters to believe that the monument had effectively been abandoned by the city and that protesters acted with a reasonable belief that city law enforcement officials had given implicit endorsement to their actions.
When former chief Greene, announced the charges, she said State Senator Lucas and others "conspired and organized to destroy the monument as well as summon hundreds of people to join in felonious acts," NBC reports.
Police say they were told not to stop vandalism of the statue by State Senator Lucas, according to the charging documents acquired by Fox News.
Police said State Senator Lucas approached officers with a warning: “(T)hey are going to put some paint on this thing, and y’all can’t arrest them," according to the documents.
“(T)hey gonna do it, and you can’t stop them … they got a right, go ahead!” police claim Lucas said.
Police “informed Senator Lucas that she could not tell people they can do that,” the filing said. “Lucas replied, ‘I’m not telling them to do anything, I’m telling you, you can’t arrest them.’”
Thomas K. Plofchan Jr., a lawyer representing Ms. Greene, said in an interview on Tuesday that his client had done her job at the highest level of competence on June 10, but was placed on administrative leave in early September as retaliation for the felony charges being filed. Mr. Plofchan said Ms. Greene was still trying to resolve any issues the city might have had with her and retain her job, but was instead fired at 8:30 a.m. Monday.
“When Ms. Greene asked why she was terminated, she was told they didn’t have to give a reason because she was an at-will employee,” Mr. Plofchan said. “We have a highly educated African-American police chief who was doing her job, and politics is getting in the way.”
At a Monday news conference, Greene held up her termination papers while surrounded by supporters.
"I believe I was wrongfully terminated for upholding the law and being retaliated against for sticking to my sworn oath that I swore to serve and protect my citizens, community and keeping my officers safe," she said.