June 24, 2021 02:45

Portsmouth police chief fired after pressing charges against violent protesters, including state senator

Margaret Matray

The Virginian-Pilot

Portsmouth Police Chief Angela Greene was fired Monday morning, a little more than two months after she was temporarily removed from her position by then-City Manager Lydia Pettis Patton.

Greene held a press conference outside City Hall and said she was given a termination letter, presumable by Interim City Manager LaVoris Pace, who replaced Pettis Patton when she resigned Sept. 8.

Greene said she plans to file a wrongful termination lawsuit against the city.

“I believe I was wrongfully terminated for upholding the law,” she said, “and I’m being retaliated against for sticking to my sworn oath … to serve and protect my citizens, community and keeping my officers safe.”

Pettis Patton removed Greene from her position on Sept. 4, a few weeks after the police chief announced felony charges against state Sen. Louise Lucas and more than a dozen others stemming from a protest and vandalism at the city’s Confederate monument in June.

The city manager told council members Greene had been placed on administrative leave pending an investigation into her personnel file, the vice mayor told The Virginian-Pilot at the time.

The details and findings of such an investigation are unknown.

Greene has led the department since March 2019. She replaced Tonya Chapman, who said she was forced out and raised allegations of systemic racism within the department.

Greene worked with Richmond police for 15 years before joining the Portsmouth department as an assistant chief in 2016.

In mid-August, Greene announced charges against 14 people, including Lucas, NAACP leaders, several public defenders and a school board member. All were charged with felony injury to a monument, and eight also face a conspiracy charge. Five more people have been charged since.

The commonwealth’s attorney and city manager have said they didn’t know police were filing charges.

On June 10, protesters gathered in the afternoon and began spray painting the monument ahead of a rally planned for that night. While that was happening, the City Council postponed a vote on moving the monument, the subject of a years-long debate. (The council has since voted to move it, and work crews have removed it.)

Hours later that night, protesters beheaded statues of four soldiers on the monument, and one fell on a man, seriously injuring him.

In court documents, police say Lucas told officers in the afternoon that they couldn’t arrest protesters: “I’m not telling them to do anything,” Lucas said of the demonstrators, “I’m telling you, you can’t arrest them.” Lucas left hours before the man was injured.

Days after charges were announced, Patton told council members in an email that Portsmouth police were supposed to drop an investigation into the protest because of a conflict of interest, although she didn’t say what that alleged conflict was.

Greene has said she tried to have an outside agency investigate because of a potential conflict involving “elected city officials” who were at the protest. After “all efforts were exhausted” to have an outside group investigate, Greene said it was up to her department to do it. She said there weren’t any conflicts of interest for her department.

This is a developing story. For updates, return to PilotOnline.com.

Margaret Matray, 757-222-5216, margaret.matray@pilotonline.com

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