On a chilly night in September, 2007 the Richmond City School board members called a emergency meeting at City Hall, after dozens of men equipped with hand trucks began evicting the Richmond City Schools from City Hall at the demand of Mayor Wilder.
The four trucks parked at the loading dock of City Hall and the doors into the building are guarded by Chief Rodney Monroe and his department, preventing board members, citizens and the media from holding the meeting or even entering the building.
According to the Blue Raccon and Scott Bass this is how it all played out:
It was Monroe’s role in ensuring that City Hall, a public building, remained closed to public officials, journalists and other citizens the night of September 21, turning City Hall into a mini police state during Mayor Wilder’s attempted eviction of the School Board and Richmond Public Schools.
Monroe doesn't view the decision as a mistake, or the potentially damaging perception that his police department has become the strong-arm of Mayor Wilder. As for the City Hall fiasco, he says he strongly believes his department had a duty to man the doors to prevent a potentially "volatile situation" from getting ugly.
"For all his strengths and leadership skills, Monroe can come off as painfully simplistic. He equates the City Hall closing, for example, as no different than police helping a landlord evict a tenant, a common practice. He’s seemingly oblivious to the analogy’s main weakness: Closing City Hall to the public more closely resembles evicting the landlord at the request of the tenant."
Monroe is capable and committed administrator and law officer, though there is criticism about some of his management decisions.
Further, attorney Stephen Benjamin muses whether the murder rate's wonderful decline is due to good policing, or a stabilization of Richmond's unfortunate drug market. There haven't been any huge busts of drug rings or gangs of late, and hence no murderous jostling for control in trafficking.
This is where critics have been loudest. Hicks, Khalfani and Benjamin all see the chief's insistence on securing City Hall — not allowing the public, including state Sen. Henry Marsh, into a public building — as a serious offense. "We got a mayor that runs and rules with an iron fist, and obviously he rules the police chief as well," Khalfani says. "I'm sure [Monroe] was following orders, but at some point folks need to stand up and advise that some actions are inappropriate."
Benjamin takes it a step further. He says Monroe "has got to be the one who stands up to the administration and says: 'I do not work for you. I work for the people and the law says this building is open. This department will not become your personal police force.' When someone tries to close a public building, then the proper role for the police department is to be standing there holding the door open for the citizens."
But for me, as a citizen, the saddest part of this is that Monroe permitted his officers seal off City Hall as though his force was the Governor-Mayor's gendarme. The excuse that the Chief was just.... following orders shouldn't wash with anybody and should raise concern.
Now that Chief Monroe has secured a new job in Charlotte, other details emerge like his instance that Mayor Wilder have a permanent full time security detail of eight officers at a cost reported of over $500,000.00 per year.