NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) — Right now, each police department has to figure out how to keep protests peaceful – while making sure those participating feel their voices are being heard.
In Norfolk, where there have been no arrests connected to protests, they’ve chosen to support demonstrators with police escorts and also a listening ear.
Saturday, a crowd of hundreds’ journey through Norfolk had an unexpected twist.
There was the sadness of the moment that another black man’s life has been reduced to a hashtag. There was anger and frustration from making that walk before. But then there was a special exchange.
Unbeknownst to them, Chief Larry Boone was nearby but unseen for an hour as more people joined.
The riot team was ready, but he said no. He didn’t want that to be the narrative there.
“Within moments I was surrounded by 350 people plus,” said Norfolk Police Chief Larry Boone. “I got caught up by multiple questions and I tried to field as many questions as I could. I might’ve answered 30-40 questions for various people. They have been non-violent. There hadn’t been any damage. And they were a model for the world to see.”
Peaceful albeit understandably disturbed. They are people in pain wondering if Rodney King’s fight proceeded Eric Garner’s pleas for air and it still leads us to hearing George Floyd beg, wondering if his last breath will finally be the catalyst for change.
Boone says yes.
“They are expressing their grievances and their grievances are real,” said Boone. “They are very emotional in these surreal times, times that I haven’t seen in 30 years. You saw a man killed for public consumption for the whole world to see. And it pains me to think that some loved one would see that, to see the life leave his body as he cried out for his mother.”
“We need to have real progress and I have no doubt after this because I’ve never seen anything like it there will be real police reform.”
Boone fully expects more protests until all of the officers involved in George Floyd’s death are arrested and charged.
He says a part of the challenge for police departments moving forward will be trying to encourage the good officers, weed out the bad and navigate a major recruiting challenge at a time when you really need the best people on board.
10 on your side talked to Norfolk Police Chief Larry Boone about the importance of being a part of this effort right now as well.
“It’s important that they see us in a different light,” said Boone. “And I know that’s just fleeting in the moment. But at least it’s an opportunity to be doing something productive and positive that serves as a benefit for those who have been impacted by this COVID-19.”
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