VCU appoints interim police chief to replace Venuti

Howard "Mike" O'Berry will serve as VCU's interim police chief starting August 1. Photo courtesy of VCU

Andrew Ringle, Managing Editor

VCU Police announced Wednesday that Howard “Mike” O’Berry will serve as interim police chief starting Aug. 1.

O’Berry is currently assistant police chief and has been with VCU Police for 25 years. He will fill in for the current police chief, John Venuti, who was promoted last fall to associate vice president for public safety for VCU and VCU Health.

Lt. Nicole Dailey will fill O’Berry’s role as the department’s interim assistant chief. She has served in management roles at VCU Police for 21 years.

Nicole Dailey. Photo courtesy of VCU

“As interim chiefs, both O’Berry and Dailey will assume the day-to-day leadership and management of VCU Police operations,” said Meredith Weiss, vice president for administration, in a statement. “As long-time, dedicated leaders in the department, they understand the policing needs for an urban university and 21st-century academic health system.”

O’Berry previously served in the United States Marine Corps, and he has received more than 20 military and police awards during his career.

Venuti will continue to serve as police chief until Aug. 1, surpassing nine years in the position. Since his appointment in 2010, VCU Police became the first agency in the Richmond metropolitan area to implement body cameras for officers.

According to the department’s website, 96% of students, faculty and staff reported feeling safe or very safe in a spring survey.

A proposal to nearly double the enforcement area of VCU Police was approved by city council in January. Councilman Michael Jones probed Venuti, who presented the proposal, about diversity in his force and on whether his department could adequately police the area if officers didn’t represent the diversity of the student population.

VCU Police made more than 1,000 arrests in 2018, and according to the department’s yearly review, 51.8% of arrestees were black. The department also reported 12 citizens involved in use of force incidents were black, while three were white. Although the total number of use of force incidents decreased from 2017, the number of black citizens involved increased by more than half.

The latest demographics of sworn officers illustrate a majority white and male force. Of the 97 sworn officers represented in the data, 44 are white men and 13 are white women. There are 31 non-white male officers and nine black women. No other races or ethnicities are represented by women in the force.

45% of VCU’s 31,076 students are minorities, according to the university’s website.

Demographics from VCU Police were updated to reflect the most recent data from the department.

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