Newport News police chief helps with Ferguson unrest

Gives advice on dealing with protests

NEWPORT NEWS, Va. (WAVY) — On Saturday, Newport News Police Chief Richard Myers was part of a conference call with some of the top leaders of the Missouri Highway Patrol about the situation in Ferguson.

Highway patrol leaders believed he had unique experiences that could help them police the town of Ferguson, Missouri after Governor Jay Nixon removed power from the local police department last week.

Myers sat down with WAVY.com’s Deanna LeBlanc on Thursday to fill her in on what was discussed. He said he saw a lot of similarities between unrest in Ferguson and unrest in Sanford, Florida after Trayvon Martin’s death. He assumed the position of police chief in Sanford in the wake of that shooting, after his predecessor stepped down.

“It just seemed like it was revealing a preexisting gap or lack of a relationship between the police department and the African-American community,” he said of the current unrest.

In Sanford, Myers tried to win back public trust. Something he said Ferguson police didn’t do at first.

“The minute protesting started, the response by the police seemed like the choice of last resort rather than the choice of first resort,” he told WAVY.com.

Myers pointed to Ferguson police appearing more militarized, and even less transparent: “I’ve never seen, in 37 years of policing, where a crowd of protesters is greeted with snipers sitting on top of a vehicle aiming their rifles.”

He calls some of the police actions inflammatory, even shocking, like releasing surveillance video of a robbery allegedly tied to Michael Brown.

“It’s how you handle it afterwards and more importantly the ongoing relationship and dialogue between police and their entire community,” he said.

That’s something Myers said he’s trying to bring to Newport News.

“It’s a trust issue,” he said, and explained homicides still unsolved, wont make progress until the African-American community and police work on their relationships.

“Moving away from the stop snitching mentality, moving away from mistrust with law enforcement, sharing information, and not letting retaliation stymie folks from doing the right thing,” Myers said.

Myers wasn’t the only one giving advice to Missouri Highway Patrol. He said other chiefs of police with unique experiences contributed, too. He also gave Missouri Highway Patrol contact information for other experts he thought might be able to help.

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