Charlottesville Police Chief Steps Down
Al Thomas was sharply criticized for his response to the deadly white supremacist rally in August
By Josh Rosenblatt,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 18, 2017 3:30 PM CST
Charlottesville Police Chief Al Thomas Jr. exits the memorial service for Heather Heyer   (Andrew Shurtleff/The Daily Progress via AP, Pool, File)

(Newser) – The police chief of Charlottesville, Va., abruptly retired today, four months after a rally held by white nationalists in the city turned deadly and two weeks after a city-commissioned review slammed the police department for its response. Alfred Thomas had served as chief of police since May 23, 2016, CBS reports. "Nothing in my career has brought me more pride than serving as the Police Chief for the City of Charlottesville," said Thomas. "I will be forever grateful for having had the opportunity to protect and serve a community I love so dearly." City Manager Maurice Jones will appoint an interim police chief within a week.

In the report released Dec. 1, Thomas was sharply criticized for his role in the Aug. 12 rally that led to the death of a counter-protestor, Heather Heyer, the Washington Post reports. Several officers told the review board that Thomas told them to take a hands-off approach to the violent confrontations that erupted that day, saying, “Let them fight for a little. It will make it easier to declare an unlawful assembly.” In addition, Charlottesville officers weren't properly trained and many didn't even know how to use the riot gear they were given that day. Thomas' retirement comes three days after Heyer's alleged killer, Nazi sympathizer James Fields, learned that he will be facing first-degree murder charges.

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