Michael Kochis has been on the job as Charlottesville’s Police Chief since Monday but his swearing in came yesterday at the tail end of a City Council work session.
“Mayor and City Council, we’ve arrived at the time where we can welcome a new member to our family here in the city of Charlottesville, a new leader for the Charlottesville Police Department,” said interim City Manager Michael C. Rogers.
Six new firefighters have joined Albemarle County this week after going through an abbreviated recruit school. The county announced this morning that the new public safety employees had previous experience and are known as “lateral recruits.”
“ACFR personnel are highly trained and motivated to provide the highest quality service to the residents of Albemarle,” said Albemarle County Fire Rescue Chief Dan Eggleston in a statement. “These individuals were already trained firefighters elsewhere and chose to come to ACFR because of the standard of care and quality of the department, and we warmly welcome them to the family.”
There are still six weeks until Michael Kochis becomes the chief of police in Charlottesville but the Warrenton top cop appeared at a press conference Tuesday to answer questions from local media. He addressed several issues head-on, including a climate of suspicion against law enforcement in Charlottesville.
“There is a volatile environment, but I don’t think that’s unique to Charlottesville,” Kochis said. “I think in general within our profession, you’re seeing a transition. I talked about this during the forum about what does the 22nd [century] policing report look like? And that may sound simple, but that answer, I believe, is pretty complex. And I think communities, whether it be Charlottesville, Alexandria, or any other jurisdiction in this country, is going to have to really figure it out and our leaders within our police organizations are going to need to do that.”
Charlottesville City Council has approved the selection of Michael Kochis to serve as the city’s next police chief. Interim City Manager Michael C. Rogers made the announcement during last night’s City Council meeting after explaining the process.
The firm Polihire was hired to conduct the search and they identified five candidates. Three finalists appeared last week at a forum run by the Police Civilian Oversight Board and the process also included input from committees.
“Through that process and looking at the rating of the various committees of the various candidates it became clear that one candidate stood above the others,” Rogers said. “That candidate was Michael Kochis.”
On Monday, three finalists for the position of Charlottesville Police Chief appeared at a forum at the Carver Recreation Center that was an event of the Police Civilian Oversight Board.
“The PCOB, though a new element in our government, is an an important component in assuring there is transparency and accountability in the execution of police services in our community,” said Interim City Manager Michael C. Rogers.
The candidates are:
Latroy A. “Tito” Durrette, acting Charlottesville Police Chief (view resume)
Michael Kochis, Chief of Police in the Town of Warrenton (view resume)
Easton L. McDonald, Major-Division Commander, Loudoun County Sheriff’s Department (view resume)
Full-time fire rescue personnel are now supplementing emergency response efforts in southern Albemarle County. Albemarle County Fire Rescue is now staffing the North Garden Volunteer Fire Company Monday through Friday from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. This began on November 7.
In a release sent out by Albemarle County this week, Fire Rescue Chief Dan Eggleston said this strengthens a partnership between his department and the volunteer organization.
“As volunteer rates decrease across the country, departments locally are committed to working together to provide effective and efficient emergency services to the people of Albemarle County,” Eggleston said.
The Charlottesville City Council had a full meeting on Monday, and one I’m finally able to get to after taking a couple of days off from a deadline. We start the coverage with the consent agenda, which included an extension of the contract for the Robert Bobb Group for the services of Interim City Manager Michael C. Rogers. According to a staff report, that will give enough time for a new police chief to be hired as well as for Council to adopt a strategic plan. Then there’s also the matter of the budget.
No one spoke during the opportunity to comment about the contract extension.
A veteran firefighter with over thirty years experience but only five months in Charlottesville has been named as the interim chief of the city’s department.
Michael L. Thomas has been the Deputy Chief of Community Risk Reduction since June 2022 after retiring from the Lynchburg Fire Department. He will succeed Chief Hezedean Smith, who has left to become chief in Polk County, Florida.
“Chief Thomas holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Administration and an Associate Degree in Fire Science. He holds certifications as a Fire Inspector, Fire Investigator, Certified LEO, Incident Safety Officer, has attended the National Fire Academy, and is currently enrolled in ICMA’s (International City/County Management Association) Professional Development Academy,” reads a press release with the announcement.
Another high-profile vacancy has opened in Charlottesville City Government. Hansel Aguilar has resigned as executive director of the Police Civilian Oversight Board effective October 21. He was appointed to the position last September.
During his tenure, City Council adopted an updated ordinance that gave a new name to what had been the Police Civilian Review Board, a name that reflected additional powers for the body.
“The ordinance granted the board more supervision of the Police Department by providing the ability to receive, investigate and issue findings on complaints made by civilians toward the Police Department,” reads a press release.
Hansel Aguilar is soon to be the former director of the Charlottesville Police Civilian Oversight Board (Credit: City of Charlottesville)
The office for the Police Civilian Oversight Board has a budget of $362,677 in the current fiscal year.
Aguilar will become the Director of Police Accountability in Berkeley, California. He had worked for the Office of Police Complaints but was terminated by Washington D.C. in 2019. He appealed his firing and was initially awarded a reversal but the case was appealed to the Superior Court of the District of Columbia. The case is still pending according to a status report filed on September 21 in the United States Court of the District of Columbia.
The University of Virginia has published an annual report that takes a look at crime on Central Grounds as well as its satellite locations across the Commonwealth. The 2022 Annual Fire Safety and Security Report covers the activities and statistics compiled by the UVA Department of Safety and Security, which includes the UVA Police Department with its 170 employees.
“UPD participates in a mutual aid agreement with other local departments and a cooperative patrol agreement with the City of Charlottesville, which gives University officers jurisdiction in much of the city area surrounding the University,” reads a description on page 11 of the report. (review the report)