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Newport News Police Department making policy changes in response to nation's call for justice

“I apologize to the Floyd family and every resident of Newport News that has ever has a negative interaction with someone in this uniform."

NEWPORT NEWS, Va. — Mothers and their children stood in solidarity Tuesday for a better future. Newport News families marched to City Hall with George Floyd in their hearts.

“I don’t want my son to plead for me like that,” said one protester. “I don’t want him to say he can’t breathe.” 

They were joined by community leaders that urged the crowd to make their voices count.

“Even in quiet times, when there is not a national outcry, we have to show up at city council,” said EmPower, LLC founder Yugonda Sample-Jones. “We have to hold our elected officials accountable.” 

Sample-Jones organized the march. It also doubled as a chance for people to register to vote.

“It’s really nice that reform is being talked about, but who are the people in the rooms when reform is being talked about?” Sample-Jones asked. 

Hours earlier, Newport News Police Chief Steve Drew announced changes within his own department. 

“I apologize to the Floyd family and every resident of Newport News that has ever has a negative interaction with someone in this uniform,” Chief Drew said. 

Drew spoke in a press conference Tuesday, along with Mayor McKinley Price. He said his officers are constantly training. 

He has already taken action to rewrite policies. Officers used to have a "duty to report" when other officers were going beyond their authority. Now, they have a "duty to intervene," regardless of rank.

The police department is also changing their sergeant-to-officer ratio. Chief Drew said there will now be one sergeant for every six officers. 

“An officer is responsible for six officers instead of eight, 10 or 12,” Chief Drew said. “They have a more intimate knowledge of who that officer is.” 

Sample-Jones hopes the community has a seat at the table. She wants to make sure any new policies and legislation are balanced. 

“How can you make a decision about us if you haven’t walked in our shoes,” Sample-Jones said. “That is why we need to create equity in what is going on in Newport News.” 

The president of Black Lives Matter 757 said another march is set for Saturday at Mount Trashmore. It will start at 10 a.m. and people plan to march for autism and black lives.  

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