Interim Richmond police chief speaks out

"I'm excited to have the opportunity to take over as the interim chief. It's also a little sad the way it's happened," says Bisa French, who until days ago was Richmond police assistant chief.

Sad, French says, because her friend Allwyn Brown quit as chief on Tuesday, just days after a no-confidence vote by the police union. 

"For him to end a 35-year career the way it ended here, is not necessarily the terms in which I wanted to become chief," French said.

The shake-up happened so quickly, French's badge still says "assistant chief." The sign on her door, already outdated. Now, she's the first woman to head the department.

"I don't look at myself as the first woman police chief. I mean, that might be what it is historically, but I look at myself as the police chief of Richmond," French said.

French says her goals are simple. 

"It's a transitional period, and my goal is to stabilize things internally, look at the issues that were brought forward and work with our police officers association to come to some resolution," French said.

Police union President Ben Therriault agrees with the new chief.

"We're hopeful, and we have to give her her chance and we hope that she will do well, and we're committed to working with her diligently on behalf of our members," Therriault said.

And there's a lot of work to do after some rough years at the Richmond Police Department under Chief Brown.

Brown was criticized for his handling of the sex scandal involving Richmond officers and a former sex worker named Jasmine Abuslin. Abuslin went to a Florida rehab with the help of Richmond police. Brown denied suggestions that the department spirited her across the country even as investigations were ongoing. 

Officers also complained of low morale and a lack of vision under Brown's leadership.

"People didn't feel like their talents were being used correctly, they didn't feel like they were valued by the police department, they didn't think management basically fostered a culture of inclusivity," Therriault said.

"This last year, particularly, has been a little rocky," said Richmond Mayor Tom Butt.

Butt said the city will get through this change in chiefs.

"These things happen, and I like to look at the future and not the past. I think we'll be fine," Butt said.