HAMPTON, Va. — Police chiefs from three cities in Hampton Road teamed up with leaders from the FBI and Virginia State Police to talk about police reform and the relationship between police officers and people in the community.
The Hampton Roads Committee of 200+ Men hosted the event.
The organization's president Jimmy Gray said his group is about enriching the lives of young Black men in Hampton Roads communities and helping them reach their highest potential.
“We’ve had some of these incidents that have gone on across the country involving the death of young black males through interactions with law-enforcement. We’ve had discussions about that,” Gray said.
"Some of our young men have expressed concerns, lack of trust, and so today we thought we’d bring some of our law enforcement leadership together with the young men in our program, to have a discussion about what’s happening, what their concerns are, and how we might bridge that gap that exists right now between some of our people,” he said.
The chiefs took and answered questions directly from boys and young men in the community.
One student asked: “Tell me why as an African American male I should consider being a Hampton police officer?”
Hampton Police Division Chief Mark Talbot responded, highlighting the importance of a having a police force that represents the communities they serve.
Also on the panel: Newport News Chief Steve Drew, Chesapeake Police Chief Mark Solesky, Captain Gregory Mathias of Virginia State Police, and Brian Duggan of the FBI Norfolk Field Office.
Gray said and he wanted this panel with law enforcement leaders to centered on the youth. He said it’s about bridging the gap, creating conversations, and helping both sides better understand each other.
"There have been numerous incidents that have occurred across the country. I think with the availability of cell phone cameras, the more and more we see these incidents play out and covered by the news,” Gray said. “More attention has been drawn to it, so we decided it was important for us to continue to have that conversation with law enforcement and our young people.”
Gray said his organization hosted a similar panel around five years ago and felt it was important to have another conversation.