NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) – Some members of Norfolk City Council are questioning the handling of recent officer-involved shootings.
City council met Tuesday evening for a scheduled work session. During the “council interests” portion of the meeting, the shootings and mental health were topics of conversation.
“Both the incidents went horribly wrong,” Councilman Paul Riddick said.
Riddick spoke for more than 10 minutes at the beginning of the work session. He said officers could have handled two shootings differently. In both cases, a police officer shot men whose families have said they were mentally ill.
Wednesday, June 4, 72-year-old Lawrence H. Faine was shot and killed. A Norfolk police spokesperson said officers were called to the Calvary Towers to serve an emergency custody order. Police said Faine threatened the officer with a knife. The officer shot Faine, who died.
There was a similar story Friday, June 6, involving police and a man who had a mental illness. The Latham family called 911 for help with 35-year-old David Latham, who is said to have been schizophrenic and paranoid. The family said police had been called to their house before to help with Latham. A Norfolk police spokesperson said Latham threatened the officer with a knife. Latham was shot and killed by the officer.
Riddick brought up a question WAVY.com asked Police Chief Michael Goldsmith at a news conference Monday. WAVY News’ Erin Kelly asked Goldsmith how many times Latham was shot. Goldsmith said he didn’t have the information with him at the time. The Latham family has said he was shot several times.
“The chief said he didn’t have that information,” Riddick said. “That’s hard for me to believe, because the number of murder scenes that I’ve been apart of when I used to move bodies for the Medical Examiners Office.”
Riddick went on to say, “That information is readily available.”
Riddick also said the number of shots makes a difference in the case.
“The Supreme Court says, once a situation is under control, that police officer has to stop shooting,” Riddick said.
Mayor Paul Fraim said city leaders and law enforcement must learn from each of the incidents involving Faine and Latham.
“We have to learn from each one,” Fraim said. “We have to do better in the future.”
Fraim also said every situation is different and dynamic.
“No one goes out there with the intention of doing harm to another,” said Fraim, referring to officers responding to calls.
“I believe we have an excellent police department,” the mayor said. “And I believe it’s well led.”
Fraim said the bigger problem is related to mental health: “The problem is, is we have a broken mental health system in this Commonwealth and across this country.”
Multiple city council members brought up funding for officers to go through specific training related to mental health. Councilman Andy Protogyrou said that money for crisis intervention training has been set aside in the most recent budget. At the meeting, Protogyrou asked the funding get pushed through so that training can happen.
“Getting the officers the help they need, the equipment they need; the personnel they need to execute the warrants that they have to execute, or to assist the civilians as they have to,” Protogyrou said.
Protogyrou also said there needs to be “absolute transparency” in order for there to be improvement. He gave an example from Latham’s death, saying the city needs to take a look at the calls that came through to the 911 dispatchers that night. Protogyrou said how the family, dispatchers, and police officers were communicating with each other matters to the case.
Protogyrou said there needs to be transparency so officers can be trained and so city council can make the right policy decisions for the future.
Chief Goldsmith was originally supposed to give a presentation on gun violence in Norfolk at Tuesday’s work session. The presentation was scheduled before the officer-involved shootings happened. Goldsmith was at the work session and ready to present, however, City Council ran out of time. Goldsmith’s presentation was postponed until Tuesday, June 24.