LYNCHBURG, Va. – On Wednesday, the Lynchburg Police Department kicked off its first of several listening sessions in some of the Hill City’s predominately Black neighborhoods.
Every Wednesday in July, police chief Ryan Zuidema will listen to people’s personal experiences with officers from the department.
Before he can have an open dialogue with the Black community, Zuidema is also speaking with his Black officers to find out how they feel.
This comes as there’s a nationwide call for police reform in departments.
Zuidema said they just started the process to create an internal diversity committee that will look at race, gender, sexual orientation within the department and develop a plan in the process.
As 10 News has reported, the LPD is 85% white.
Zuidema recognizes there should more people of color to reflect Lynchburg’s diverse community.
As of May this year, LPD had 19 Black officers and recruits, and four Hispanic officers and recruits.
10 News asked the chief if officers have come to him to express their thoughts on diversity.
He said no, but the conversations have already started.
“It’s part of my duty as a police chief to understand exactly how different folks are impacted in our department whether it be based on their gender, race or anything else. So I’ve had several of those conversations already. I plan to have more of those conversations going forward so I can get a better understanding of how they feel being a person of color in our department,” Zuidema said.
In the next sessions, the chief wants to hear the good and bad experiences. He’s prepared to answer questions about race and lack of diversity too.
Some community members have concerns that there are no people of color on the command staff.
“This is truly a team effort; in order to have folks that are eligible to be in positions like command staff positions, we need to have greater numbers of black officers in our lower ranks to allow them to build up to that time,”Zuidema said.
LPD says it has internal promotional processes once a year. Applicants are interviewed, tested, and can receive additional points based on tenure during the review process.
Zuidema says there are some people of color who qualify for promotion, but there aren’t any openings at the moment.