Pandemic challenging for police as they look to get into their communities

Chesapeake Police vehicle
Posted at 6:54 AM, Oct 07, 2020
and last updated 2020-10-07 07:08:31-04

CHESAPEAKE, Va. - K.L. Wright was looking forward to National Coffee With a Cop Day.

"We really think it's a good venue to get out and meet the public and, yeah, we're a little disappointed," the Chesapeake Police Chief said of the national event's cancellation.

Another opportunity to get out into the community axed due to COVID-19.

It comes at a time when face-to-face encounters with officers outside of a traffic stop or arrest are desperately needed as protests over police brutality hit streets around the country.

In some cities, tensions between police and the communities they serve are at an all-time high.

However, in Chesapeake, Chief Wright feels good about where things stand. He says despite the pandemic, his officers are still getting out through community forums, back-to-school events and more.

"A lot of telephone conversations and of course a lot of people will now just show up to a precinct asking to speak with a precinct manager or myself," he said.

The Portsmouth native and 38-year veteran of the Chesapeake Police Department says the department really started putting an emphasis on community policing -- a philosophy promoting partnerships between police and their communities -- in the mid-1990s.

Chief Wright tells News 3 compassion and kindness are promoted from the moment a new recruit begins training.

"Policing, no matter where it is, is still a human endeavor. One human being dealing with another human being and their issues," he said. "Not everything is going to have a happy ending, but we should not be there adding to the misery. We should be there to help people out in their darkest hour."

But that's not a message everyone is receiving. Protests over police brutality, particularly against people of color, are still happening across the United States.

Chief Wright, who is black, says what he's seen in some of the videos sparking these protests isn't representative of his philosophies.

"I think if you look and see some of the things taking place, sometimes, someone hasn't slowed things down. People always talk about deescalating things," he said. "I think that deescalation rests on not just police, but also the other parties involved as well."

He says the best way to air concerns with police is to get in contact with the local precinct and its commander adding that calls and emails to Chesapeake police will always be responded to.