Newport News Police Chief explains recruiting process, background checks for potential officers

Posted at 7:17 AM, Jun 04, 2020

After the horrific viral video of George Floyd’s arrest which ended in his death- News 3 is taking a closer look at the recruiting process and background checks when it comes to police officers joining the police force.

For days, the country has been in turmoil with protests and riots breaking out in almost every city. The big question many people have been asking is how does police brutality, especially in the black community, keep happening? What’s the hiring process when joining a police force and should the background checks be more in depth?

“I want to know why they wanted to get into this field in the first place. I think sometimes when you are just one on one and you have those conversations. Why do you want to get into law enforcement? What is it that you want to do here? What drew you to this?” asked Police Chief Steve Drew, Newport News Police Department.

When it comes to the hiring process for the Newport News Police Department, Chief Steve Drew says it’s vital to have citizen input. There is also a department psychologist that does an in-depth psych evaluation, there are home visits where officers meet the family and of course a search on social media. The department is not only looking at posts but what sites recruits are visiting as well.

“We’ve changed a couple of things in our recruit class. I want to make sure we are extremely diverse. I think that’s important, and I don’t just mean in race – experience, background. One of the concerns that I had when I walked through the door here is the language barrier with the Spanish community that continues to grow. So, now ten percent of the academy class when they start day one is that they have to speak Spanish,” explained Chief Drew. “I need individuals in this organization who want to be in law enforcement, who care about people, who are diverse and who definitely can speak different languages.”

Chief Drew says he believes his department has been successful with community relations, but also says there is always room to grow and learn from past mistakes.

“If you see an officer do something wrong you are obligated to report it. But, maybe some different language might be if you see an officer do something wrong or getting frustrated or upset including myself – you will interact, you will interrupt, you will engage,” said Chief Drew.

Yet still, racial tensions in the United States are at an all-time high. Voncille Finch knows this feeling all too well. A couple of years after she was born in Memphis back in the sixties, she and her family were caught in a crossfire of someone throwing a bottle outside of a window into a crowd during a riot - striking Finch on her right eye – leaving a permanent scar on her face for life.

“We as black people have come so far and what they’re doing to our people is wrong,” said Finch. “This is America. We should not be going through this.”

With four children and seven grandchildren, Finch says she’s worried when her kids step out of the house or get stopped by the police. This is the reason why Chief Drew wants to bridge the gap.

“We will be open and transparent. We’ll try to bring the right individuals with the right mind set and right heart into this organization. Provide the best training and incorporate humanity into it. That’s important,” said Chief Drew.

“This is about equality. We are somebody. I am somebody. I hope and I pray constantly for peace. Nothing but peace, because without peace you don’t have anything. But, first of all, we have to get a piece of mind within ourselves,” said Finch.