WINDSOR, Va. (WAVY) — The Isle of Wight NAACP held a press conference Wednesday afternoon after meeting with the town’s mayor, town manager and police chief.
The private meeting occurred on Wednesday, April 21.
The local NAACP has called on Police Chief Rodney Riddle to resign after the controversial traffic stop in December that led to a U.S. Army officer being pepper-sprayed. An officer involved in the incident has been fired, and Army 2nd Lt. Caron Nazario is suing the officers.
After weeks of the NAACP reaching out to officials, this was the first meeting between these groups since the video of that traffic stop became public earlier this month.
During the meeting, the NAACP claimed lack of training prevented the officers from properly de-escalating the traffic stop that led to the pepper-spraying of Nazario.
“We made it clear that unequivocally we are asking for the resignations or the terminations of Police Chief Riddle and officer Crocker,” said Brandon Randleman, an advocacy adviser for the Isle of Wight chapter of the NAACP.
During the meeting, he said they asked Riddle to excuse himself so they could talk to the mayor and town manager.
“I believe we all came into this meeting today hoping for accountability, and unfortunately, we did not get accountability,” said Randleman. “Instead we received comments from the town manager and the mayor that they stand by Chief Riddle and Officer Crocker.”
Windsor Mayor Glyn Willis was surprised by the request for Riddle to leave the meeting.
“It wasn’t what I expected. It made me think of things differently… I sensed it was an opportunity to listen, and I think they bring a lot to the table, and I think that’s what made it productive for us,” Willis said.
We asked Willis about the NAACP telling 10 On Your Side there is no road forward until Riddle is fired.
“Well, we will just have to figure that out,” he said.
Following the traffic stop and release of body camera footage as part of a lawsuit filed by Nazario, one of the officers involved in the stop, Officer Joe Gutierrez, was fired.
The NAACP also wants a person of color hired.
“African Americans make up to 20% of residents in the county, and we would like to see an African American officer hired,” Butler said.
Currently, there are no Black officers on the seven-person Windsor police force. 10 On Your Side pressed the mayor’s on a promise to fill the current police department vacancy with an African American officer.
“We specifically asked the group we met with to help us find somebody,” Willis said.
Butler also wants a copy of the police training manual, which has not been handed over, and wants a citizen review board for police complaints.
The Rev. Willie Williams was also in the meeting. He said he wants to just shut down the Windsor Police Department and replace it with the Isle of Wight County Sheriff’s Office.
“I’m saying scrap the whole idea of having a police department because I don’t think they can afford one,” Williams said.
The mayor says working together is the answer.
“I think we have a joint goal to make Windsor a better place and there is a lot of work to get done here,” Willis said.
Randleman thinks the path forward in Windsor is paved with better police training.
Butler says the path forward is organizing and getting at least one African American resident elected to Windsor Town Council.
“The NAACP is currently working on voter education and voter registration, and one of the things I’ve focused on is leadership in the community. If you have a concern in the community, why don’t you run for public office?” Randleman said.
The path forward can’t be paved with fear, however.
“We were pulled over by a town officer, and I immediately felt my heart pounding. There was a light out on the car. I remember telling the officer, I’m going in the glove compartment to get the registration. I have never felt that way in the Town of Windsor,” said resident Laequinla Hunter.
Willis concluded that the ultimate goal is common ground.
“What they want is to make Windsor a better place, and that’s what we have in common, the same vested interest, and we just need to move forward with them on that,” Willis said.