Lynchburg PD listening sessions begin Wednesday in largely African-American neighborhoods

Local News

LYNCHBURG, Va. (WFXR) — The first of the Lynchburg Police Department’s listening session will take place in Jefferson Park Wednesday evening.

The sessions will be take place at 6 p.m. on Wednesday, July 1 in an outdoor area with seats spaced apart for health concerns. The idea is to have conversations with a moderator present so residents can explain what it’s like to be policed by the department.

The Rev. James Camm says with the protests and awareness of racial inequality, there’s a chance for change.

“I think it’s an exciting time if we embrace it and go forward with it,” said Camm.

He works with Lynchburg Police on community outreach and applauds the department’s recent efforts.

“Them going out in the community, what they’re doing now going out and actually hearing the voices of the citizens in those areas of the city is going to be very critical.”

Lynchburg Police Chief Ryan Zuidema says all are welcome regardless of what neighborhood the listening session is taking place in, but that they chose each location deliberately.

“Most of the locations we’re going to be in are going to be in predominantly African-American communities, and obviously that’s where a lot of the feedback has come from, some of the concerns have come from, so we’d be a little bit derelict in our duty if we didn’t try and address those concerns.”

He says the department regularly reviews its policies, and he’s open to change.

“Hopefully some of the conversations that we have over the next several weeks will guide and direct some of that, and we can certainly evaluate those as need be.”

Camm encourages members of the community to come out and share their experiences if they want things to change.

“It’s a must on both ends. It is not good to have a voice in a closet. It’s your opportunity to share with the police department exactly your concerns.”

Community group Lynchburg RISE has been meeting with Zuidema as well, and has been advocating for several changes in police practices. The founder, Mirgina Sheffey, sent WFXR the following statement:

The community would like the PD to take affirmative steps towards reconciliation. They stated that until the PD acknowledges flaws in the system, they (the community) are unwilling to recognize the PD as a part of the community, deserving of a seat at the table. They are receptive to The Listening events but hope the PD clearly outlines how they will implement training and prove how these changes will differ from past PD practices which Chief Zuidema has claimed has been in effect for years but which have had no proven results. They are encouraged by the steps towards policy changes but would like everyone to bear in mind the reality that the public will neither feel safe nor be safe until we recognize that there is a problem and directly address, not just attempt to placate the discontent with empty promises. The PD must consider how they can deliver on their promises before they can expect cooperation from the community. 

Mirgina Sheffey, Lynchburg RISE

Below are the dates, times, and locations of the listening sessions:

Community Listening Session #1

Date: Wednesday, July 1
Time: 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.
Location: Jefferson Park, 405 York Street

Community Listening Session #2

Date: Thursday, July 9
Time: 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.
Location: Diamond Hill Center, 1005 17th Street

Community Listening Session #3

Date: Wednesday, July 15
Time: 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.
Location: Daniel’s Hill Center, 317 Norwood Street

Community Listening Session #4

Date: Wednesday, July 22
Time: 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.
Location: College Hill Center, 811 Jackson Street

Community Listening Session #5

Date: Wednesday, July 28
Time: 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.
Location: Jubilee Center, 1512 Florida Avenue

Community Listening Session #6

Date: Thursday, August 6
Time: 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.
Location: Miller Park, 301 Grove Street

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