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Citizens share personal stories about police in Lynchburg’s first series of listening sessions

Next listening session will be at Diamond Hill Center on Wednesday

LYNCHBURG, Va. – Lynchburg Police Chief Ryan Zuidema is taking the first steps to help the Black communities in the Hill City heal, hoping to bridge the gap in Lynchburg’s neighborhoods.

In the first of many listening sessions, people spoke about their personal experiences with police officers.

Under a big white tent at Jefferson Park Wednesday, more than a dozen Lynchburg residents shared their personal stories with police.

And officers had no choice but to listen.

In the first of many listening sessions--- people spoke about their personal experiences with police officers.
In the first of many listening sessions--- people spoke about their personal experiences with police officers. (Copyright 2020 by WSLS 10 - All rights reserved.)

“Like law enforcement when they’re called, they already have this aggression against black men when they see them, and I guess it breaks my heart,” one woman said.

With help of a moderator, one-by-one, people spoke their mind.

“I felt good about it. I felt that you didn’t have to hold back. I just think that there were some things that people have been holding onto, like myself, that the department needed to hear,” Lynchburg resident Michelle Dancy said.

With the nationwide call for police reform, Chief Ryan Zuidema is holding several listening sessions throughout the city to hear from community members of color and help bridge the gap.

“It’s important to hear that kind of story. We need to hear the good the bad, the ugly and the in between,” Zuidema said.

Dancy shared an interaction she said she had with an officer, a year ago, who came to arrest her son. She said in the process, the police officer took inappropriate actions.

“He went up there by himself and my daughter said he pulled the cover back off of her and said I see that you’re undressed, and I’ll step outside and you can go ahead and get dressed. At that point I was so angry,” Dancy said.

Dancy says she’s no longer angry but disappointed.

She said the LPD giving the community this platform to share today helped alleviate some of that pain.

“I want to teach my daughter to be trustworthy but when you have incidents of improprieties that happen to them as a young child it’s kind of hard,” Dancy said.

Zuidema said they will follow up and investigate some of the accusations.

“If our officers’ actions are outside of policy or outside of the law, they will certainly be held accountable,” Zuidema said.

In the meantime, he's asking his officers to take these stories to heart and perform better.

“I think the biggest way to help them heal first is to listen to what they have to say right. We sat here tonight and heard a lot of very personal stories that were certainly very emotional and understandably so,” Zuidema said.

LPD has now launched a new online complaint form. Click here to access the form.

The next listening session is will be the Diamond Hill Center on July 9.

Community Listening Session #2

Date: Thursday, July 9, 2020

Time: 6 to 8 p.m.

Location: Diamond Hill Center, 1005 17th Street

Community Listening Session #3

Date: Wednesday, July 15, 2020

Time: 6 to 8 p.m.

Location: Daniel's Hill Center, 317 Norwood Street

Community Listening Session #4

Date: Wednesday, July 22, 2020

Time: 6 to 8 p.m.

Location: College Hill Center, 811 Jackson Street

Community Listening Session #5

Date: Wednesday, July 28, 2020

Time: 6 to 8 p.m.

Location: Jubilee Center, 1512 Florida Avenue

Community Listening Session #6

Date: Thursday, August 6, 2020

Time: 6 to 8 p.m.

Location: Miller Park, 301 Grove Street


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