New police reform group in Lynchburg calls for departmental improvements

Alliance for Police Reform

LYNCHBURG, Va. – The protests in Lynchburg have simmered down, but work is still happening behind the scenes.

James Hobson is a pastor and member of the Alliance for Police Reform. His messaged wasloud and clear on Thursday.

“Black people aren’t asking for revenge. We’re asking for equality,” said Hobson, pastor of Hill City Community Church.

Hobson spoke Thursday on behalf of a newly formed group called Alliance for Police Reform.

It’s made up of several Lynchburg pastors, citizens and community-based organizations that want to see improvements made within Lynchburg’s police department.

“Who is holding our police chief accountable saying, ‘We must make our LPD diverse’? That is the number one item on our agenda,” Hobson said.

The group has created a list of recommended improvements, including:

  1. Strengthen policy and oversight
  2. Conduct annual community trust surveys
  3. Racial/ethnic diversity of LPD at all levels
  4. De-escalation 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.

“I’m happy to say a lot of those things are already on our radar,” said police chief Ryan Zuidema.

Zuidema told 10 News he’s been talking to the group already.

Right now, there are plans to have six officers take a stand-alone deescalation training and come back to teach the others.

As for claims of racial profiling in certain neighborhoods, Zuidema said, “How can we better make our folks understand that and get our folks some education on what it’s like to grow up black if you’re not a black officer. I think that’s important.”

“Why has no one addressed this before and we’re saying not in my city and not anymore,” Hobson said.

Zuidema said his next plan is to sit down with the group and get a clear and detailed understanding of the demands so there can be effective change for both sides.

Zuidema encourages citizens to attend the rest of LPD’s listening sessions to express opinions and past experiences with officers.

Here are the details:

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