Councilman Riddick says long-time white officers are ‘still stirring the pot of racism’

Posted at 12:49 PM, Jun 10, 2014
and last updated 2014-06-10 23:36:28-04

Norfolk, Va. - Norfolk’s police chief told city councilmembers his strategy for reducing violent crime.

Councilmembers have said repeatedly there's just too much violence in the city, especially gun crimes.

The meeting was planned weeks ago, but comes during a recent rash of violence that has left one police officer dead, and three people fatally shot by police. Two of those police shootings involved officers firing upon mentally ill people armed with knives. In another instance, police shot and killed a rampaging man who murdered a teenager and a police officer.

The presentation from Chief Michael Goldsmith is in response to several councilmembers’ concerns about ongoing violence in the city.

“We need to realize every city in this region has taken extra mental health money to train officers and every time it comes up, we have a different model. Well our model is not working,” says Councilman Paul Riddick.

A review of the most recent FBI crime statistics show those concerns are backed by statistics.

According to the FBI report, Norfolk had more murders, rapes, robberies and serious assaults in 2012 than any other Hampton Roads city, even though Norfolk does not have the highest population. Those statistics are the most recent available in the FBI compilation, “Crime in the United States.” In that year, Norfolk logged more than 1,300 violent crimes, far and away more than any other regional city. Virginia Beach, a city with twice the population as Norfolk had about half as many violent crimes.

Norfolk also had more burglaries and car thefts than other cities, and was second to Virginia Beach in larcenies and arsons.

The FBI’s preliminary reports for 2013 show Norfolk’s crime trend is continuing. The preliminary 2013 numbers shows Norfolk has logged more violent crimes than any other large city in Virginia. The report details crimes for cities with populations of more than 100,000.

“We still have some of the old guard who train white officers to believe that the black community is the enemy . We still have some long-time white officers who are still stirring the pot of racism dealing with the black community, and these young white officers are buying into it. We need to look at ourselves as a city and examine to see if we're still living in the 50s and 60s, or do we truly have a professional police department. It seems like the same old issues pop up every five or six years, and that's not good. And don't think for one minute that I'm the only person in the community that's upset about this,” Riddick further explained.

Last week two officers, on separate calls, shot and killed mentally ill men.

On Wednesday 72-year-old Lawrence Faine was shot at his apartment at Calvary Towers after threatening the officer with a knife. Two days later on Friday, police shot another knife-wielding man, 35-year-old David Latham. That happened on West 30th Street.

"I think it's disappointing to the administration as well as probably the citizens at large because we have two individuals who died because our police officers did not have the training that they deserve to have," Riddick says.

Riddick isn't the only councilmember with these concerns. Councilman Andrew Protogyrou also spoke up.

"They need further training in mental health issues,” he says. “The officers are trained. They get 40 hours of service training. They need more training in sensitivity."

For the past six years Riddick says he's asked the city for funding to train police, but year after year he says the issue has been pushed aside.

He hopes last week's shootings, though tragic, are a catalyst for change.