VA Police Head to Leave After Charlottesville Criticism

“It’s just time for me to go,” says Police Superintendent W. Steven Flaherty. He denies his departure is due to a report faulting his agency for “inaction in the face of violence” in a white nationalist rally last summer.

Virginia State Police Superintendent W. Steven Flaherty will retire after 14 years as one of the state’s top law enforcement officials, Gov.-elect Ralph Northam announced Tuesday, the Richmond Times-Dispatch reports. Lt. Col. Gary Settle, a former sheriff who now oversees the state police Bureau of Criminal Investigations, will replace Flaherty on Feb. 1. Flaherty’s retirement comes after a scathing report commissioned by the city of Charlottesville that found widespread law enforcement failures as city and state officials responded to a series of white nationalist rallies over the summer. Charlottesville Police Chief Al Thomas, who came under heavy criticism for his handling of the rally near a Confederate statue, abruptly retired on Monday.

Northam also announced that current Secretary of Public Safety and Homeland Security Brian J. Moran will continue in that role in the new administration, as will corrections director Harold Clarke. Moran also played a role in the preparations for the violent Aug. 12 rally in Charlottesville, as well as a smaller, more tightly managed Confederate statue protest on Richmond’s Monument Avenue in September. Flaherty said his departure was unrelated to the events in Charlottesville, saying, “It’s just time for me to go.” Flaherty said. Settle said the challenges facing his agency are making sure law enforcement personnel have the right equipment and technology and building on relationships with federal and local counterparts. The report on Charlottesville by former federal prosecutor Timothy Heaphy faulted the agency for failing to adequately coordinate its response with local police, and “inaction in the face of violence.” The violence culminated with a car driven by an alleged white nationalist plowing into a crowd of people, killing 32-year-old activist Heather Heyer.