Police chief unresponsive to concerns

Published 5:10 pm Friday, January 22, 2021

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To the editor:

My name is Naajia Lyons. I’m a resident of Suffolk. I have been interning with Virginia Organizing since 2018.

We have worked on environmental justice issues when it comes to flooding in the communities. I worked on helping Suffolk residents get their voice heard in regards to better public transportation. We called and met with city officials and the issue was resolved.

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I made several attempts to contact interim police chief, Maj. Al Chandler, via email and calls. Other members have called to no avail. How is the top police officer in Suffolk not available to residents of Suffolk? There is a call for police reform and criminal reform across the nation. Our police chief, who’s in charge of the police officers patrolling our communities, won’t meet with community leaders. What’s wrong with this picture?

I have an African American son. Police officers have been shooting unarmed African Americans at an alarming rate. These African Americans are men and women of all ages. Police are not discriminating on age. Virginia Organizing and other organizations are calling for change.

Since you won’t make yourself available, these are our concerns. What about retraining officers to de-escalate situations where there is no firearm? Train officers to use non-lethal force in those non-threatening cases.

When recruiting police officers, there should be a questionnaire asking if the applicant has prejudiced or racist thoughts about people of different ethnic backgrounds. This way, the applicant can be screened for racist ideas.

Chief Chandler, what are your thoughts on criminal and police reform? What’s more important to you, the Suffolk Police Department Accreditation Assessment — a piece of paper — or the Black lives and family of the people of Suffolk?

The whole world is watching how police officers around the nation are killing unarmed African Americans. What are you going to do to make sure this does not happen in Suffolk?

Naajia Lyons