VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. — The Virginia Beach Police Department named Sgt. Christopher "Chris" Washington as its first African American community liaison, and Washington said he's excited to start bridging gaps.
"I wanted to be an example," he said. "I wanted our Black community, some of our youngsters to see more than just basketball, music and entertainment.”
That calling led Washington to law enforcement.
Washington said although the position is new, he's always had a passion for connecting with the community.
In a video introduction, Washington showed that. He said he started out as a school resources officer, and there, enjoyed feeling like a part of people's lives.
"I was able to talk to the kids every day," he told 13News Now. "I was able to be like a substitute teacher to them, helping educate them in things they didn’t know, navigating domestic situations, navigating the importance of education or even conflict resolution.”
He's bringing life experience to the liaison position, as much as he's bringing career experience.
"One thing I always tell people is, I was a man for 25 years before I joined the police department, so I have the perspective of the community," he said. "I remember what it was like, not understanding, hearing things on the news and coming to my own conclusions. But over the last 14 years, I’ve seen the other side. I have answers to those questions that I have, and I try to get that back to the community."
A statement from the department said one of Washington's goals is to build trusting relationships with neighborhoods, churches and schools. It also said VBPD wants "all members of the community feel they are treated with respect and dignity."
Sgt. Washington said he’ll work with Chief Paul Neudigate to develop strategies to gain trust between officers and the community. Washington said he's always taken a professional approach to the job, and for him, "integrity and righteousness" are the most important aspects to uphold.
"It’s about time that we take advantage of having a chief and a police staff that is open and willing to ask people, say ‘Have that conversation,’" Washington said. "So if this is the time to do it -- this is an area that we want to see true growth, we want to see expansion of the department and the community in coming together – then, this is the opportunity."
You can watch his full introduction in the video below: