By Bill Robinson
Larry Brock will have four more years as Richmond's police chief after the city commission awarded him a new contract last week.
Brock, whose civilian law enforcement career started in his hometown, now appears set to conclude it here. After a stint with the U.S. Army military police, Brock served four years on the Richmond police force before joining the federal Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms agency for about 24 years.
Although statistics show that Richmond's crime rate fell slightly in 2011, anecdotal review of the crimes RPD investigates each week still seems staggering. The recent spate of violent crimes, three during Thanksgiving week, and the stream of burglary reports that never seem to end may distort public perception. However. when readers complain that the Register's reporting of crime news on its front page makes our community look bad to visitors and potential newcomers, you know it's bad.
Still, Brock remains optimistic that the city can get the upper hand on law breakers and believes the department can raise its level of professionalism.
When Brock came back to Richmond the department had been criticized for its handling of two well-publicized incidents involving minorities. Some also believed that hiring and promotion decisions were influenced by politics. That seems to have improved under Brock's tenure and the current City Hall administration.
With more than six months remaining on Brock's contract and the terms of two commissioners about to expire, some might consider the awarding of a contract now a lame-duck action by the current commission. However, three of the current commission members will remain, and they could have granted Brock a contract in 2013, even if their two new colleagues objected.
A police department can never make everyone happy, but the department has appeared to make progress under Brock leadership. Even with the difficulty of retaining officers, Brock hasn't hesitated to recommend dismissal of those he believed did not met expectations.
Whenever I think I'm having a rough day at, I remember my job is still easier than the police chief's. I may get threatened with physical violence on rare occasions, but police officers probably can get that everyday, sometimes even before lunch.
While we should expect a high degree of professionalism from police departments, let's remember our obligation to the public servants who put their lives on the line for us every day.