LYNCHBURG, Va. – Following the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis in May 2020, drawing civil unrest nationwide, Lynchburg police have been creating an action plan to collaborate with the community.
“We’ve heard them, we’re listening to them, we’ll continue to listen to them. This is not just a one-and-done type of a plan,” said Police Chief Ryan Zuidema, who presented that plan to Lynchburg City Council on Tuesday.
Part of their strategy is holding listening sessions. Last year, the department held six meetings for residents to express issues.
Gloria Witt, a community and social justice activist, is also a consultant and was hired by police to facilitate those gatherings.
“The main [issue] was this idea of traffic stops and the fact that the precursor to a traffic stop usually started with a light was out,” said Witt.
Other concerns include neighborhood policing and addressing mental health.
“We’re going to continue to strive to provide the best level of training and equipment and education to our officers; and work collaboratively with other organizations and the city to keep Lynchburg a great place to live, work, and play, and a safe place as well,” said Zuidema.
That involves building relationships in the community.
“We want to free up our officers to have more free time so they’re engaging in our community in a non-enforcement setting,” said Zuidema.
He added one challenge is additional resources, including recruitment to meet the needs of the community.
Witt believes over the last few months, police have been listening and responding, “The work they’ve done so far is admirable. They have definitely leaned into the feedback and striving hard to rewrite the script.”