LYNCHBURG, Va. – Two candidates have come forward, Interim Police Chief Ryan Zuidema and Deputy Police Chief Mark Jamison.
But only one can earn the title of Lynchburg’s police chief.
For 30 minutes both men told the crowd what they’d bring to the table if selected and what challenges they plan to tackle once on the job.
“If we don’t have the trust of the community then we’re not going to be successful. So we have to make sure that we work through that,” Zuidema said.
“Who we hire is one of the most important things that we do, and we need the right people for this job,” Jamison said.
Then came concerns and questions from community members.
A woman in the crowd asked Zuidema, “In 2015, The great majority of homicides where the victim was black have not ended in any arrest, can you address why we’ve had this drastic change, just in the last few years?”
He replied, “We are not getting a lot of cooperation from people who witnessed or involved in a lot of these incidents.”
Paul Whitten, president of Lynchburg Police Foundation, asked Jamison, “Internally what are some of the things as chief you would do tomorrow to begin improving and hopefully solving the retention issue?”
Jamison said, “We have to provide people opportunities because what they want is to know, ‘how do I get over there?’ If we’re stagnant that leaves no room for development, no room for growth.”
In the end both men left the room and community members were left to express who they favor.
But the ultimate decision falls on the city manager who hopes to have her pick by early next week.
“Having police officers and the community members work towards informing me in what is a very difficult decision. So I’ve welcomed it and I appreciate the gratitude,” Bonnie Sverck, city manager, said.