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Northam names former Portsmouth police chief to head Parole Board

Northam names former Portsmouth police chief to head Parole Board

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Gov. Ralph Northam has named former Portsmouth Police Chief Tonya Chapman as the new head of the Virginia Parole Board.

Chapman was the first African American female chief of a municipal police department in Virginia, according to a release from the Northam administration.

The Virginian-Pilot reported in March 2019 that Chapman said she was forced out as police chief after three years in the job. Chapman said in a letter to the Portsmouth community that she encountered “bias and acts of systemic racism” as she sought to change the department’s culture.

Chapman previously was deputy secretary of Public Safety and Homeland Security in Gov. Terry McAuliffe’s administration.

The five-member Parole Board has the authority to conditionally grant parole to people who committed crimes prior to Jan. 1, 1995; revoke parole and post release supervision for those under supervision found to be in violation of the terms of their release; and to investigate, prepare reports and advise the governor, when requested, on executive clemencies.

The decision to grant or not grant parole generally requires the agreement of three board members. Four members must agree on parole for a person serving life for first-degree murder.

Northam named Linda L. Bryant, a member of the Parole Board since 2018, as vice chair. Bryant, a lawyer from Chesapeake, is a former deputy commonwealth’s attorney for the city of Norfolk and a former deputy state attorney general.

Chapman succeeds Adrianne L. Bennett, appointed this month to serve as a juvenile and domestic relations court judge in Virginia Beach. Chapman and Bennett begin their new jobs on April 16.

“I congratulate Tonya Chapman, a true servant leader, on her appointment,” said Bennett.

According to the board’s website, Bennett was appointed to the board on Oct. 5, 2015, and became the chair in January 2017. A lawyer since 1998, she had her own practice and also served part time on the misdemeanor team at the Norfolk Public Defender’s Office before joining the parole board.

Perhaps the highest-profile parole grants made while Bennett was the chair were last November for Jens Soering and Elizabeth Haysom, convicted of the 1985 slayings of Haysom’s parents in Bedford County. Soering was deported to Germany and Haysom to Canada.

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