VCU Police headquarters is the new home for Transgender Day of Remembrance tree

Share this story

Kenneth Decker will tell you there has been tremendous resentment by the transgender community toward law enforcement. A history of missteps, and basic misunderstandings of the challenges transgender individuals face, has led the transgender community to distrust police worldwide.

However, the Richmond Police and Virginia Commonwealth University Police departments are working to improve relationships with the historically marginalized community — both in Richmond and at VCU.

On March 31, the international Trans Day of Visibility, Richmond and VCU Police collaborated with Decker to dedicate a cherry tree to honor transgender lives lost to violence. Guests included representatives from local law enforcement agencies, VCU staff who specialize in LGBTQIA+ programming on campus and allies who work with the LGBTQIA+ community citywide.

Decker is co-founder of TDoR RVA, a Richmond group that holds annual ceremonies for Transgender Day of Remembrance in November. He said it means a lot for police to help establish a remembrance tree at VCU Police headquarters.  

“I’m hoping this will bridge a gap — the police are an important ally in that,” Decker said. “On a symbolic basis it’s important that it’s on [police] grounds and is welcoming for transgender people.”

During the dedication, which included a ceremonial mulching and watering, VCU President Michael Rao reaffirmed the university’s commitment to inclusion and diversity, saying that diversity means embracing all human beings for who they are.

VCU student Andrew Wilson said he worked with his parents beginning at age 14 to transition. He noted that 27 transgender people were killed nationwide in 2016 — two from Virginia. He was pleased to see the university’s involvement in the dedication.

Today I am very proud to say that I’m a student at VCU.

“Today I am very proud to say that I’m a student at VCU,” Wilson said.

Richmond Police Capt. Daniel Minton, the department’s LGBTQIA+ liaison, said RPD is dedicated to helping make the city and nearby counties safe places for all individuals.

“As you pay your respects to those who have passed, take comfort in the future,” Minton said.

In September, TDoR RVA reached out to Richmond Police in hopes of finding a new location for a tree; a magnolia tree at another location was destroyed when a water main broke. Decker and Minton worked to find a publicly accessible and safe place in the city to accommodate a new tree; Minton contacted VCU Police to collaborate on the project.

Paul Thrift, superintendent of grounds for VCU, determined that an Okame cherry tree would be the best fit for the space behind VCUPD headquarters. The tree is a hybrid cross between two species of cherry tree native to Asia.

“This tree serves as a reminder for those who are gone. However, it’s also a reminder that each and every person has a fundamental right to feel safe,” VCU Police Chief John Venuti said during the ceremony. “… Being an agent of change to help each other is not just a goal — as police, it is our responsibility and our obligation.”


Subscribe for free to the VCU News email newsletter at and receive a selection of stories, videos, photos, news clips and event listings in your inbox every Monday and Thursday.