The Richmond Police Memorial statue in Richmond, Va., which police say was vandalized earlier in the week of July 11, 2016
Richmond Times-Dispatch

A memorial statue dedicated to fallen officers from the Richmond, Va., Police Department was vandalized Wednesday morning in an act that Police Chief Alfred Durham is slamming as "cowardly," the Richmond Times-Dispatch reports.

The statue, which had just been moved to the city's Byrd Park three weeks ago, was marked with red paint, a large red X painted on the torso of the 8-foot-tall bronze statue, which depicts a Richmond officer carrying a small child holding a teddy bear. The officer's face was also marked with the paint.

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The memorial also includes a plaque listing the names of 28 Richmond police officers who were killed in the line of duty from 1863 to 2003, the Times-Dispatch notes.

"Justice for Alton" was sprayed on the paving stones at the base of the statue, an apparent reference to Alton Sterling, who was fatally shot during an altercation with Baton Rouge, La., police officers.

“This is a cowardly act,” Durham said during a news conference at the memorial. “It’s very disheartening.”

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By Wednesday afternoon, the words at the base of the statue had been erased, and Deputy Chief Steve Drew said that the whole statue was scheduled to be cleaned within 24 hours.

According to Durham, officers were already "on edge" following the killings of five Dallas police officers in the aftermath of a protest for Sterling and Philando Castile, a Minnesota man who was also killed by a police officer.

The report notes that Richmond police had received an anonymous phone threat over the weekend, but that turned out to be a hoax.

“These are trying times for law enforcement, but we’re doing everything we can … to make sure we don’t have those incidents that we see across the country,” Durham said.

“What we don’t want is for

to be so on edge that they make a mistake,” he added.

Read more at the Richmond Times-Dispatch.