NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) — When a police officer takes a life, it requires a serious review. Now, the City of Norfolk is changing the way it investigates fatal police shootings.
There is a new policy in place that Virginia State Police will investigate fatal Norfolk Police shootings. The policy is the continuing effort by police to build trust in the community.
When we look back on the hot sweltering summer of 2016, police-involved shootings, caught on video tape, anger in the streets and distrust will be what we remember.
“When you look at the national optic, when you look at what is going on nationally, it seems to me in order for us to be responsive, this is the thing to do,” Norfolk Police Chief Michael Goldsmith said.
Chief Goldsmith and Norfolk Mayor Kenneth Cooper Alexander have met every week since Alexander was elected to change the optics on police-citizen relations.
“Chief Goldsmith and I and the City Manager, who is the public safety director, we believe in order to show that there is fairness and transparency, why don’t we get a neutral detached group to investigate the shootings?” Alexander said.
The new policy was not voted on by city council, but requires that all Norfolk police fatal shootings be investigated by state police.
“Of course we are in a moment,” said Alexander. “We are in a season around the country and there is suspicion.”
It appears Chief Goldsmith is all in as well.
“I don’t think it undermines our department (to have the Virginia State Police investigate),” Goldsmith said. “I have full faith and confidence in my folks to deliver fair and impartial investigations to the Commonwealth’s Attorney, but if we are going to be responsible to our community, then the answer becomes clear this is something we need to do.”
Alexander ran for mayor on a platform of transparency in government, and that includes transparency in the police department.
“I do think there is an image problem with the police department, certainly not only in Norfolk, but around the country. People don’t think that highly of our first responders,” Alexander said. “I am a strong supporter of our police department.”
The hot, violent, turbulent summer of 2016 is not one we will soon forget.
“Across the country, what we have seen with the president’s report on 21st century policing, and this is what the community wants,” Chief Goldsmith added.
Goldsmith wants to build more trust between law enforcement officers and the communities they serve, enlisting the public’s assistance in reducing crime and creating stronger and safer communities.
Alexander actually wants all police shootings, fatal and non-fatal to be investigated by state police, but he says the full council must approve that.