Lynchburg group hopes to provide community oversight of policing

Local News

LYNCHBURG, Va. (WFXR) — A new community group formed in Lynchburg aims to address policing. The group, the Alliance on Policing Reform in Lynchburg, formed after the killing of George Floyd and the protests that followed.

The Alliance has been meeting with Police Chief Ryan Zuidema and the City Council, and they’re trying to be recognized as an official group conducting oversight of the police department. On Thursday, July 16, the group laid out their vision.

“The issue of police reform have moved to an entirely different level where now we are engaging in sustained, strategic action,” said Dr. Myra Gordon, a member of the Alliance who previously served as an Associate Provost with Kansas State University.

The Alliance identified 13 areas of improvement, according to the group’s press release:

  1. Strengthening policy and oversight
  2. Conducting annual community trust surveys
  3. Racial/ethnic diversity of the LPD at all levels
  4. Deescalation and anti-racism training
  5. Developing an external review board for officer-involved shootings
  6. Reporting use of force data to the public
  7. Other training and education issues
  8. Climate surveys to assess what it is really like to work in the LPD
  9. A complete review of personnel matters (recruitment, hiring, training, promotion, detachment, exit interviews)
  10. A complete evaluation of training effectiveness
  11. More data-driven assessments and evaluations
  12. More community involvement, input, and oversight of policing
  13. Placing limitations on no-knock warrants

“We’re no longer going to take a back seat as concerned citizens about addressing issue of reform,” said Pastor James Hobson with Hill City Community Church. “We’re going to take action. And we’re going to take action at the pace that we want to take it.”

Members of the Alliance include faith leaders like Pastor Hobson; the NAACP; One Community; One Voice; local Black Lives Matter leaders; and Sylvia Hobson, Lynchburg’s first black female police officer.

“Because policing has evolved, training should evolve also,” said Sylvia Hobson. “That should include diversity training.”

Some hope that training will address what Michael McMillan with Lynchburg RISE calls targeted harassment.

“I get harassed by the police all the time here in Lynchburg. These are recent cases, right here,” he said, rifling through apparent warrants. “Recent cases of driving while black, trespassing, the quality of life proxy arrests, I like to call it.”

“We have the power as citizens to take back the City of Lynchburg, and that’s exactly what we’re going to do,” said Pastor Hobson.

The Lynchburg Police Department did not immediately respond to WFXR’s request for comment.

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