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Portsmouth Police Department says its officers violated standards of conduct at protest in Norfolk

The demonstration took place on June 1 on Interstate 264. The Portsmouth police chief said two of her officers were there. They're accused of shoving protesters.

PORTSMOUTH, Va. — Portsmouth Police Chief Angela Greene said her department took "corrective action" against two officers who violated the department's standards of conduct at a protest.

The demonstration, itself, was in Norfolk on June 1.

A large group of people who were calling for an end to racial injustice following the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis met on North Military Highway near Military Circle then marched to Interstate 264 where traffic had to be stopped.

While the group was on the highway, some Portsmouth police officers showed up.

RELATED: Protesters march onto I-264 in Norfolk, others break curfew in Virginia Beach

Marquise S. Hunt tweeted that the Portsmouth officers "drove on the route with a slew of vehicles, including a BearCat." 

He included video in his tweet and went on to say, "...this is what occurred next."

It was during that time the officers were on I-264 that the chief said two officers violated the standards of conduct.

On Tuesday, Chief Green issued the following statement:

On June 1, 2020, at approximately 6:30 pm personnel from the Portsmouth Police Department were traveling on Interstate 264 East, responding to a request for assistance from the Virginia Beach Police Department.  As the group of police vehicles crossed the Broad Creek Bridge and neared the North Military Highway overpass, they came upon heavy congestion and traffic backup.  In order to facilitate a timely response to the Virginia Beach request, the police vehicles activated their emergency equipment (lights and sirens) and began traveling on the left shoulder (eastbound).

After only a few moments of travel, they encountered pedestrian traffic on the Interstate Highway.  Participants in a protest around JANAF and Military Circle left the march route on Military Highway and ventured onto Interstate 264, obstructing traffic.  As traffic, including the police vehicles, came to a complete halt, the protesters began approaching and surrounding the stopped police cars.

In order to ensure the safety of everyone on the interstate that day, as well as expedite our continued mission to Virginia Beach, some of the officers exited their vehicles and formed a perimeter line. This line was being formed just to clear a lane of travel for the police vehicles to continue onto their destination and prevent a catastrophic incident from occurring with the equipment they had in their possession.

As the officers attempted to form a line to clear an open lane for travel to leave the area, they were approached by individuals. When two officers were approached by two individuals, one wielding a wooden mallet in one hand and a stick in the other, the two officers created distance from the approaching individuals by pushing them with enough force to create distance and continue to Virginia Beach.

The incident on Interstate 264 is currently under administrative investigation for all officers involved. Based on the preliminary review of body camera footage, two officers failed to meet our Department’s high expectations and standards of conduct.  This has resulted in immediate corrective action.  Any additional corrective action that the administrative investigation reveals to be appropriate will be undertaken expeditiously.

The Portsmouth Police Department takes seriously its obligation to protect and serve and we will continue to scrutinize our own conduct to ensure that we can meet the standards of just and conscientious policing that our citizens demand.

Angela Greene
Chief of Police
City of Portsmouth Police Department

In a follow-up statement, Chief Greene also addressed the following:

The standards of conduct violated by the two officers and the discipline they have received is a personnel matter and we will not be able to discuss it.  Please keep in mind that this incident is still under administrative review.

As far as aggressive tactics, I want to reiterate that at no time during the incident on Interstate 264 did my officers show up in riot gear.  All of my officers were either in a regular uniform or in a tactical uniform when they exited their vehicles. 

Additionally, my officers were not responding to the protest occurring on Interstate 264, but were responding to a call for assistance from a neighboring jurisdiction, utilizing Interstate 264 as their route to respond.  We have not deployed officers in riot gear or used aggressive tactics for any demonstrations or protests that have occurred in the City of Portsmouth.  All protests have been peaceful and unified demonstrations and it is our hope that this will continue to be the trend in Portsmouth.  

As such, the Portsmouth Police Department will continue to do all we can to support our citizens as they exercise their right to free speech and peacefully assemble.         

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