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Richmond’s police chief resigns, interim chief named

“Richmond is ready for a new approach to public safety.”

Richmond Police Chief William Smith, left, is confronted by a protester as he attempts to address a large crowd in front of City Hall, Tuesday June 2, 2020, in Richmond, Va. Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney apologized after police, the night before, lobbed tear gas at a group of peaceful demonstrators during a protest over the death of George Floyd, who died after being restrained by Minneapolis police officers on May 25. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)
Richmond Police Chief William Smith, left, is confronted by a protester as he attempts to address a large crowd in front of City Hall, Tuesday June 2, 2020, in Richmond, Va. Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney apologized after police, the night before, lobbed tear gas at a group of peaceful demonstrators during a protest over the death of George Floyd, who died after being restrained by Minneapolis police officers on May 25. (AP Photo/Steve Helber) (Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

RICHMOND, Va. – Richmond's mayor said Tuesday that he has asked for and accepted the resignation of the city's police chief, saying Virginia's capital needs "a new approach" to public safety.

Mayor Levar Stoney announced Chief William Smith's departure at a news conference and said a police major will serve as the interim chief.

"Richmond is ready for a new approach to public safety," Stoney said. "There is work to be done, and we're ready to do it."

Stoney praised Smith as a "good man" who has served the city "with grace" but said it was necessary to move in a new direction. He outlined a number of police oversight and accountability reforms he would work to implement.

The announcement comes after weeks of protests in Richmond and across the country over the death of George Floyd, the black man in Minneapolis who pleaded for air as a white police officer pressed a knee into his neck for several minutes.

Some activists have criticized police for their response to the demonstrations, including the use of pepper spray and tear gas.

Earlier this week, Stoney said he had asked a prosecutor to investigate an incident in which a police SUV was seen on video driving through a crowd of protesters who were blocking its path. No serious injuries were reported, according to the Richmond Times-Dispatch, which had reporters at the scene.