Earlier this month, an independent review led by former U.S. Attorney Tim Heaphy concluded that Charlottesville police were not only unprepared for contingencies, but Chief Al Thomas said “let them fight” when violence erupted at the Unite the Right rally that left one counter-protestor dead. Less than three weeks after the scathing report was issued, Chief Thomas announced his retirement from the Charlottesville Police Department effective immediately.
City Manager Maurice Jones is expected to soon appoint an interim chief while the city searches for a permanent replacement for Thomas, who served as chief since May 2016 and held 27 years of law enforcement experience. Among his listed offenses in the federal report, Thomas allegedly deleted relevant text messages and told his officers that they would face retaliation for cooperating with Heaphy’s investigation. Chief Thomas’ attorney has disputed that charge, and in announcing that Thomas was retiring, the city did not give a reason for his sudden departure.
“I talked to a dozen police officers who were very disappointed in their inability to react to this disorder,” Heaphy said after releasing his report. “They said ‘We had our thumbs up our ass’ or ‘We let the community down.’ Officers believed that because the way the plan was executed, they were prevented from doing their jobs.”
“In sum, this was a poorly conceived plan,” Heaphy said. “Good intentions gone awry. A failure to protect, which was a product of a failure to communicate and a failure to prepare.”