Public Forum on Police, Community Relations in Chesapeake October 21

October 03, 2014

Faculty from Saint Leo University’s Virginia Region have organized a community forum to discuss tensions, and even violence, between police authorities and citizens, and how a restoration of respectful relations could be achieved. The public is invited to this free event.

The forum is titled “Respect: Surviving a Police Encounter” and will be held at 6 p.m., Tuesday, October 21, at Saint Leo’s Chesapeake teaching location, six minutes from Interstate 64 (take (Greenbrier Parkway south and west of the mall). The address is 1434 Crossways Boulevard (the Xerox building), Suite 175, Chesapeake, 23320, and the forum will be held in the 100-seat atrium. The event is being co-sponsored by the YWCA of South Hampton Roads.

Criminal justice faculty members Ramona Taylor, a local retired judge and current chair of the YWCA Advocacy Committee, and Robert Sullivan will introduce the panelists to the public and facilitate a question-and-answer session. The panelists are from local communities:

  • Chief James A. Cervera of the city of Virginia Beach Police Department.
  • Chief Kelvin L. Wright of the city of Chesapeake Police Department.
  • Chief Richard W. Myers of the city of Newport News Police Department.
  • Delegate Daun Sessoms Hester of Virginia’s 89th House District. She also previously served on the Norfolk City Council and was an educator.
  • Reverend Dr. Kirk T. Houston, Sr., the current chair of the Norfolk School Board. Reverend Houston is also founder and senior pastor of Gethsemane Fellowship Baptists Church in Norfolk.

Judge Taylor says she was inspired to organize this discussion by multiple events, including the fatal shooting by a police officer a young man in the St. Louis suburb of Ferguson over the summer and the subsequent, continuing unrest and unease. Communities in Virginia have also seen clashes, though not as serious or nationally publicized.

“I’m really concerned about these violent encounters,” she said, and has observed in them a recurring element–a lack of respect, evident from any number of different parties, depending upon the case. She has seen examples not only as a citizen and news consumer, but also in her experience as a judge and as a university professor. In teaching graduate level courses, for instance, she has seen case studies presented that include video of violent interactions that did not make the news, but fit the disturbing trend. As a judge, she saw young people who could not or would not respect parents, family members, or court officers, and could not control their emotions.

Sometimes citizens fail to respect the authority of police commands and end up harmed or worse, she noted. She observed also that communities may want to comment on ways policing is conducted.

Consequently, she thought a discussion involving respect, or its absence, throughout society could be helpful. She also wanted to address police encounters generally–not just between police and motorists at traffic stops, which have received lots of publicity. Interactions, she noted, can occur on foot, in stores, in neighborhoods, in schools, and at homes where police may be summoned. A discussion also had to include a broad, diverse cross section of society from multiple racial and ethnic groups, with representation of multiple age groups, and both genders.

The panelists will speak for about 45 minutes, each sharing their perspectives. Members of the audience will have the opportunity to pose questions either to individual panelists or to the entire panel.

The interests and concerns raised during the forum will be food for further thought or possible action within the community, local governments, and organizations. “We are starting a dialogue here,” Judge Taylor said.

For more information on the event, please call (757) 995-3398.