Newport News mayor, police chief discuss recent demonstrations, current policing practices

Newport News

NEWPORT NEWS, Va. (WAVY) — Newport News Mayor Mckinley Price met with police Chief Steve Drew to talk about the recent demonstrations over the past few weeks following the death of George Floyd, as well as get updates on current policing practices and procedures in the city.

The press conference happened at 3 p.m. Monday at the Newport News City Hall.

Watch the press conference HERE.

Over the past few weeks, protests against racial injustice have happened all over Hampton Roads.

During the press conference, Drew said a culture change is vital in the quest for substantial reform in the way law enforcement interacts with the community.

In direct response to the death of George Floyd, a policy is now in place that encourages sworn officers to even go over the head of their supervisor if necessary to de-escalate a situation.

It was a policy that Drew thought he would never have to explicitly spell out. But following the death of Floyd — here video shows three officers not interfering when officer Derek Chauvin had his knee on Floyd’s neck for nearly nine minutes — it’s now spelled out clearly in department guidelines.

Those guidelines state it is the duty of another sworn police officer to step in and de-escalate any tense verbal of physical interaction between another officer and a citizen.

“We have got to be accountable for our actions and I want to create a culture in this police department, your police department. That puts accountability on every single officer,” Drew said.

Mayor McKinley Price added that the community needs to support the positive steps officers are taking.

“I do not support disbanding the police. I do support working together,” Price said.

Also new: Every six officers in the city will now report to one sergeant. Drew believes that in itself will help cut down excessive use of force.

“Can I guarantee it will never happen in Newport News, I can’t. I don’t know any chief that can. All I can do is put things in strategy and training and set the culture of this department. We prevent or decrease, I guess that is the best way to say it. Decrease the ability or the possibility, remove elements that would contribute to that happening,” Drew said.

Drew also made the point of emphasizing that any use of force by an officer — within or outside the department — will be documented and opened up to any other agency in the case the officer goes looking for another job.

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