Henrico County Manager John Vithoulkas has withdrawn funding for a new position in the Commonwealth’s Attorney Shannon Taylor’s office. The new deputy attorney would have been tasked with oversight of police-community relations as part of a general push in Henrico to make sure citizens’ concerns are being heard and shift the county towards a community-policing model. Taylor and Henrico County Human Resources had already offered the position to Misty Whitehead, who had accepted the role.
Vithoulkas told The Virginia Mercury that Whitehead’s social media posts showing an anti-police bias were a primary concern. “When I saw what I saw I immediately thought, you know, this is not what Shannon Taylor and I discussed,” he said. “A County Manager can’t tell a Commonwealth’s Attorney who to hire, but he can recommend whether or not local funds are included to supplement that salary. And in this case, I absolutely will not do it under any circumstances.”
Taylor announced the creation of the Deputy Commonwealth’s Attorney for Police Integrity and Compliance position in late June, when she said, “Although I am pleased that Henrico police patrol officers wear body-worn cameras and that we make every effort to view this footage, I have determined this is insufficient. My responsibility as Henrico Commonwealth’s Attorney is to keep citizens safe, and this is an important part of that.”
Taylor told The Virginia Star that Whitehead was honest before she was hired about her advocacy on social media. “Not only did she talk about holding bad actors accountable, but she also then gave praise to the times when law enforcement were doing great things,” Taylor said. “So, her positions with respect to Black Lives Matter and to the idea of wanting to allow law enforcement officers to be able to give them support, to be able to speak out when they see bad things happen, is not unlike the public statements I had made. To me, those positions were consistent with what I probably would have said.”
“Our role is to make sure that the justice system is being operated in an equal and fair manner,” Taylor said.
Whitehead had already begun dissolving her partnership in the legal firm she worked at when the county withdrew funding. Now, Whitehead is working to start a new firm that will focus on social justice issues.
“I’m heartbroken, really, because I think that we were really going to do good work. I feel like the loss of this position hurts law enforcement because police officers don’t want to be viewed as the enemy, any more than the citizenry want to feel like police officers are the enemy, ” Whitehead told The Virginia Star.
Taylor doesn’t know if the county will provide funding to hire another candidate. “When this position was shared with the community back during the summer, the response that I received was very positive. It is my hope that I will be able to find a way to still move forward with this position.”
County Manager John Vithoulkas did not respond to a request for comment.
– – –