by Chief John Venuti, VCU Police Department
Transgender Day of Remembrance, TDOR-RVA, is organized by a large group of folks in Richmond.
A TDOR Tree of Remembrance was originally planted at Diversity on Sherwood Avenue about five years ago. Diversity changed hands and the decision was made to move the tree from Diversity to University of Richmond, where it remained for about four years. The original tree, a flowering magnolia, died as a result of a flood.
TDOR-RVA approached RPD, who inquired with us about the feasibility of putting the tree somewhere at VCU. All of this coincided with the move of Police HQ to 224 E Broad Street. When we moved in, I noticed a place that would be perfect. We partnered with TDOR-RVA and worked with Kenneth Decker, the founding coordinator of TDOR-RVA, to establish the tree at its new home.
On Friday, Kenneth joined VCU and RPD Police as the new blossoming cherry tree was planted on VCU Police Headquarters property. Because of the close proximity to the National Day of Remembrance, we are scheduling a dedication in December and are assisting TDOR-VA with their plans for the dedication ceremony. I am privileged that the tree is now living and breathing at VCU Police HQ because it represents a centrally located safe place and a strong community-focused police department standing watch over a tree that represents remembrance of transgender people who have been killed.
There will be a plaque at the site, and TDOR-RVA and University of Richmond are funding a bench that will allow reflection.
I was at a Trans Lives Matter event the other night and a member of the TG Community told me that police showing up is one step forward, but the TG Community would like to see a police department take significant action in this space. I wanted to advise about the tree partnership, but I chose not reveal it out of respect for TDOR, who is really driving the train on this project. I am just a guy that makes things happen, quickly.
VCU Police have also partnered with community-based members of the TG community and have created and implemented TG sensitivity training that all VCU sworn officers have completed. This project was a collaboration between RVA TG community, VCU Police and the VCU LGBTQ+ Safety Advisory Committee.
My goal is ensuring that every single member of the VCU community and the community at large is treated with the dignity and respect that they deserve. We as police officers are privileged to be in positions of significant trust with the communities that we serve. This can never be forgotten and should be at the forefront of all of our actions, efforts, and contacts on a daily basis.