In an unexpected move which has surprised the Norfolk political and civic establishment, Michael Goldsmith will leave the post as Chief of the Norfolk Police Department and become the city’s Deputy City Manager.
He will be replaced by Deputy Chief Larry Boone, who will be the third African-American Police Chief in Norfolk in a 22-year span.
Goldsmith will leave his current post December 1 and will assume a job involving issues related to public safety in the city’s various neighborhoods. He will not be in the chain of command of the NPD.
Goldsmith’s move comes as the Norfolk City Manager Marcus Jones leaves the city for a post in North Carolina. No replacement has been named to date.
Goldsmith was named Chief in 2012 when he replaced Chief Bruce Marquis.
Marquis, an African-American, replaced the city’s first Black police chief, Melvin High in 2004.
Both Goldsmith and Boone have served in the NPD for 27 years and met when both were undergoing training for employment with the department.
Goldsmith is a native of Norfolk and Chief Boone is from New Brunswick, New Jersey.
Boone has been involved with various programs at the department, including leading the effort to attract more African-Americans. Blacks represent nearly half of the city’s population, but there is a shortage of Black officers working for the NPD.
Goldsmith’s exodus was a surprise to many, but there were reports of issues related to transparency, and especially related to a recent spat of police-involved shootings of citizens.
The most obvious example was the question surrounding Goldsmith’s refusal to release the video of the June 2 police shooting of Willie James, a mentally ill Black man who lived in the Tidewater Gardens Public housing community.
The man was allegedly wielding a knife at officers when an officer, also an African-American, shot and killed him.
Police released the image of a knife, but not the shooting incident initially. But Mayor Kenneth Alexander, even before he took office last spring, and other Black leaders demanded that they video be released.
The NPD eventually did allow James’ family and selected members for the media see the video.
Also there were concerns about NPD officers involvement in the record number of police shootings of civilians.
But Goldsmith managed to secure a cordial relationship with the Black community and was often cited as a example of a Police Chief willing to attend events in the Black community a create a constructive dialogue.
“I certainly thank Chief Goldsmith for his willingness to work and build in the community,” said Joe. W. Dillard, the President of the Norfolk NAACP. This doesn’t take away from the focus on high number of police involved shootings in our city and the need to address our mental health system.
“I hope with Boone now becoming Chief, he will bring a new perspective on things. He said he comes from these streets of poverty and violence, so he must know firsthand that we have high concentrated areas of violence in our neighborhoods with high poverty. I hope he takes this opportunity not to only build the relationships in the community, but help in building the community itself.”