NORFOLK, Va. - As the nation continues to demand justice following the deaths of a number of African Americans at the hands of police, one local police chief is letting citizens know what his department is doing to improve its relationship with the community.
Bishop Courtney McBath of Calvary Revival Church in Norfolk wants to help bridge the gap between the community and the Norfolk Police Department.
“I think we can go a long way if we get involved in these talks,” said Bishop McBath.
In a virtual town hall meeting Wednesday evening, members of the community werre able to send in their questions and get answers from Norfolk Police Chief Larry Boone - starting with what defunding the police looks like to him.
“My idea of defunding the police is reducing the workload of the men and women of the Norfolk Police Department. We have some funding that I think can go into the mental health world,” said Chief Boone.
Boone believes money should be given to health professionals who are trained to work with mental health calls. He says across the country, 20-25% of officer-involved shootings involve a person with a mental illness.
Chief Boone says transparency is crucial to seeing real reform.
“We need to be transparent as we possibly can,” he adds.
His department is currently working with the Norfolk City Council to create a dashboard where the public can look at use-of-force reports.
Training officers and the police academy were issues that were also discussed. Chief Boone says the training academy is 26 weeks and mentioned that everyone doesn’t graduate.
“We normally lose about 10% of our graduating class.”
To make sure he’s hiring people with what he calls “individuals with a public service heart,” Chief Boone says he is thinking of creating a cadet academy for high schoolers.
“We would employ them part-time status and have them work for us until they go into the police academy,” he adds.
He believes recruiting young men and women from Norfolk could help change the department for the better.
Wednesday's meeting comes a month after Chief Boone participated in a virtual town hall hosted by Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam on racial equity and policing reform. During the town hall, he mentioned how his department is one of the most diverse police departments in the state.
News 3 streamed the meeting live on our Facebook page and here in this story. If you missed it, you can watch it above.