Exclusive: Chief Myers suggests new approach to fighting crime in letter to department

13News Now Jemie Lee has the story

NEWPORT NEWS, Va. (WVEC) – While his city is battling a recent rash of shootings, the Newport News police chief is suggesting a new approach to crime prevention.

In a letter Richard Myers emailed to his department last week he emphasized greater community outreach and alluded to de-escalation, where police take a gentler approach to avoid using force. He stated that he wants to focus more on outcomes than outputs—instead of putting an emphasis on meeting quotas for arrests and citations, he wants to focus on things like increasing quality of life and reducing fear of crime.

“Every situation needs to be addressed individually, and not as a band aid--we're going to go in aggressively and fix everything. By going in strong arm tactics, that doesn't work all the time,” Karen Baird said.

From January to November 16 of this year, Newport News has had more than 110 shootings and 23 homicides. We asked citizens if the approach Myers is suggesting is effective. Bobby Berrier said the more people feel comfortable with police, the more people would trust them.

“I think it's a good idea for police to make their presence known in a friendly way in communities as opposed to an aggressive, confrontational way,” he said.

“Respect goes both ways--police respect the communities, communities respect the police,” Darrel Dixon said.

Myers made clear he doesn’t want to change what the department is doing, but how. He stated, “We know now through years of research that citizen cooperation and satisfaction with their police has less to do with the enforcement aspect of an officer’s work (ticket or warning) and everything to do with how they were treated. Those of you who went through Chief Dolan’s “verbal de-escalation” training heard about this. It is why I include “police as humanitarians” among my key leader’s intent for our organization, to always treat folks with dignity, respect, and with empathy….even when their current behavior doesn’t warrant it. In short, we must be active with the “What” (enforcement), and purposeful in the “How” to maintain a balance and sustain community partnership and trust.”

“Regardless of what a person does, you've got to respect them as a human being. You don’t know what is causing that person to act the way he is. I know a lot of situations where these kids that are in the streets-- they have no parents, no fathers or mothers in the home--some are living with their grandparents, and we need to start there with the families. If we start with the families, I think we'll get better results,” Stanley Lovett said.

One example of the new approach Chief Myers cited in his letter is the City's Violent Crimes Task Force. Before a recent round up of wanted criminals, officers held a series of meetings in the neighborhoods they were targeting. In those meetings, they told people what they wanted to accomplish and listened to concerns before springing into action.


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