Chesapeake church teams up with police to bridge divide in community

police forum
Posted at 10:17 PM, Jun 02, 2021
and last updated 2021-06-11 11:59:02-04

CHESAPEAKE, Va. – The images of George Floyd’s murder are still seared into the minds of many one year later. His death sparked an outcry for change and a nationwide discussion centered around racial equity, justice and policing.

“The police were getting a bad rap because of a lot of things that were happening, and the community at the same time is suffering as a result of it, so we just said, 'You know what - we need to talk about this,'” said James Davis, the Pastor at Chesapeake Christian Center.

Pastor Davis teamed up with the Chesapeake Police Department for a community forum Wednesday night to help bridge the gap between officers and the people they serve. A couple dozen members of the community attended the event called, “Building a Community and Police Relationship.”

Myra Bass of Chesapeake hopes to gain a better understanding of how to effectively communicate with police.

“A lot of times when someone in the African American community sees the police, they may not always be as welcoming because we don’t know what’s going to happen, so there’s that apprehension and that unknown,” Bass said. “What I would like to see is that gap to be bridged so we can better understand each other effectively because we need law enforcement.”

The department showed attendees three different body camera videos. One portrayed how an officer should calmly handle a traffic stop. Another video illustrated how stops can quickly escalate, showing a driver being confrontational. The last traffic stop video showed how some police encounters can go horribly wrong, depicting a driver firing his gun at the officer.

Chesapeake Police Capt. John Landfair said it’s vital to illustrate how body cam videos don’t always show the full picture.

In his 25 years of policing, Landfair said the job has become increasingly difficult. "I think for a long time, policing had an attitude where we were the police and this is how we operated and people can either sort of like it or not, and those days are gone," he said. "We have to be more responsive to the expectations of the community that we are serving."

Community members got a crash course on de-escalation, civil rights and what police can and cannot do.

Related: Windsor Police & other officers attend de-escalation class following viral traffic stop video

Pastor Davis said these discussions are helping build trust.

“They're evolving to become relevant to the community that they're in,” he said. “That makes a big difference because you can have a policy all day long, but if you don't understand how that policy or how that law affects this particular neighborhood, then you just end up with misunderstanding.”

Pastor Davis plans on doing more events involving the community and police to keep the conversation going and bring about change.