PORTSMOUTH, Va. (WAVY) — A local police department and NAACP chapter have opened up dialogue to help build ties and prevent police violence among the African American community.
On Tuesday, Portsmouth Police chief Angela Greene met with members of Portsmouth’s NAACP to hear their concerns about certain policies and issues following the death of George Floyd by Minneapolis police officers.
“It’s important to get that together in the beginning so when these tragic situations happen, we can move forward more quickly and make positive changes in a positive manner,” Greene said.
The two parties were originally supposed to meet on Monday, but Portsmouth Police, like other departments, is part of a partnership to help each other in need. Portsmouth Police officers were assisting Virginia Beach Police on Monday night.
NAACP president James Boyd, who has held the position for six years, says he’s encouraged by the meeting but will reserve judgment until he sees changes.
“They need to first be available to see that changes need to be made. That’s what we’re trying to get done today,” he said. “They’re obviously something not right here, not just in Minnesota, but in the city of Portsmouth. WE got them to that point. Now, it’s what needs to change. What needs to change in terms of how force is used in our city. They need to be open to seeing there are things that need to be changed and how to change them.”
Some of those changes talked about including the use of force and the use of force continuum. Boyd wants policies changed to help protect citizens from what happened to George Floyd.
Greene says they already got the ball rolling in the aftermath of his death to make sure officers know what to do.
“Right after the incident happened, we immediately had roll call training with supervisors and officers to discuss our current us of force policies that prohibit any restraint of the neck or breathing. We reinforced that and we got through the proper tactics on what we do or should not do,” she said.
Greene also says there will be other roll call training officers have to complete by next Friday as well as an in-service where they will discuss what happened in Minnesota.
She believes its important that conversations like the ones with officers and the NAACP are crucial to implementing the necessary changes.
Boyd also says they discussed diversity within the department and how the police force should directly reflect the city they serve.
“It’s extremely important especially in a city like Portsmouth that’s majority black folks. It’s important they look like us. They understand a different demographic, how they interact, and encounter citizens are different because they understand that background. So, it’s important to have it and that’s what we’ll continue to fight for until we get it,” he said.
Greene says they have tried recruiting diversity into the department but, like many other departments across the country, it’s been hard.
And as an African American officer, it’s also been hard to watch what’s been unfolding nationally between the Black community and police departments.
“It’s hard when we see individuals, minority groups, that are feeling, still today in 2020, oppressed or not treated equally. The overwhelming majority of police officers are great people and have a servant’s heart and want to do the right thing. When the few do things that want to tarnish that badge, we feel it. We really do” she said.
The Portsmouth NAACP and the police chief are scheduled to meet again on Thursday.
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