RICHMOND (WRIC)—Richmond Police Chief Ray Tarasovic has been on the job for a year now.
ABC 8 News Anchor/Investigative Reporter Kerri O'Brien spoke one-on-one with the chief about his successes and his struggles.
Tarasovic took over the job as Richmond's top cop amidst controversy.
It was no secret that Mayor Dwight Jones wanted former Chief Bryan Norwood out, but many in the community liked Norwood and protested his removal.
So, has the chief overcome all of that and is the city safer? Tarasovic opens up.
“It was an unanticipated year, but it is great to be back doing what I love,” he said.
Tarasovic came out of retirement and took over as Richmond's police chief on Valentine's Day last year, and in his year leading the department crime is down. Violent crime dropped 4 percent; homicides fell from 44 in 2012 to 37 in 2013.
The chief credits the reduction in crime to hardworking officers and the community.
“Great community response; the engagement we have in the community grows every year,” Tarasovic said.
Still, individual robberies are slightly on the rise. The chief says the department is focused on reducing those crimes by carefully examining patterns and trouble spots.
“We are data driven; we want to know where it occurred, when it occurred, why it occurred and how it occurred,” he said.
The new chief had a lot to overcome when he first stepped in.
Many in the community didn't see a need for a change. Officers on the street called Tarasovic too aggressive, and the city's faith-based leaders bonded with former Chief Bryan Norwood and fought against his removal.
Despite the faith leaders' fears, Tarasovic says he now has a very good relationship with them.
“Early on, we recognized that they had value and I had value to give and placed value in the solidification of our relationship,” he said. “It took one meeting.”
As for how that shift in power played out, the chief says the mayor came to him in early January last year.
“I think he likes my style,” Tarasovic said.
O'Brien pressed the chief on the department's relationship with the mayor's office. Many say it's tense.
“I think my relationship and our relationship with the mayor is excellent,” Tarasovic said. “I think the mayor is extraordinarily involved in what we do. There isn't a major crime that occurs in the city where I don't contact the mayor and speak with him about it.”
The once-retired chief says he's happy to be back, so will he be sticking around?
“I don't anticipate being here beyond when the mayor is done, but that's three whole years,” Tarasovic said.
Former Chief Norwood is currently a finalist for a police chief position in Columbia, S.C.
Copyright 2014 by Young Broadcasting of Richmond