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Virginia Beach Police Chief says Donovon Lynch shooting shows need to build better relations with the community

Chief Paul Neudigate is anxious to learn the results of a Virginia State Police investigation into the deadly police shooting.

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. — As Virginia State Police continue to investigate the police shooting of Donovon Lynch, Virginia Beach Police Chief Paul Neudigate acknowledges there is work to do to build better relations with the community, in particular, how the department interacts with minorities.

"There's always work to do. We have to work every day to build relationships with our community so that when there's a critical incident, they already have the trust in their police department that we'll do the right thing," Neudigate said.

Since arriving in Virginia Beach last October, there's been no more "critical incident" for the city's new police chief than unpacking a wild March night at the Oceanfront. 

Three separate incidents collided at Atlantic Avenue and 20th Street. DeShayla Harris, an innocent bystander, is shot and killed. A Virginia Beach police officer shoots and kills Donovon Lynch. There is no body camera video of the incident.

"There's a lot to dissect here. We are as anxious to get to that point,” Neudigate insisted.

While the investigation is out of Neudigate's hands, he said hears the cries for justice, the demand for answers, and the call for accountability.

"Until there's a criminal rendering, all of that has to wait," Neudigate said, adding he's confident his officers have a clear understanding of what's expected of them in 2021.

Selling the profession increasingly is a struggle.

"It's incredibly tough. Every chief will tell you that," Neudigate said.

Like many departments around the country, Virginia Beach is seeing a significant uptick in early retirements and resignations. He's down 120 officers, but he said recruiting classes are encouraging. Having a younger force, Neudigate said, is not a bad thing.

"That's both good and bad because policing is all about culture,” Neudigate said, adding that not all police officers can embrace change. "It's much easier to do on the forefront with newer officers who are much more receptive with where we are going with 21st century policing." 

As the city awaits the results of the State Police investigation into the shooting of Donovon Lynch and the fallout that's sure to follow, Neudigate is keenly aware that the painful images of the killing of George Floyd tarnished everyone who wears the badge for years to come.

"We work for our communities, and they hold us to high standards. What we saw on that tape that day is not the high standard we expect for ourselves," Neudigate pointed out.

The family of Donovon Lynch has sued the city for $50 million. Meanwhile, Virginia State Police said their investigation is ongoing.


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