June 7, 2020

Police Accountability

The death of Mr. George Floyd was, by any measure of professional policing unnecessary, avoidable and criminal. Our hearts are heavy – weighed down by the recent and tragic deaths of Mr. Floyd and others like him. The realization these incidents have been committed by some who, like us, wear a uniform and swear an oath to serve and protect all persons, only adds to our collective sorrow. I offer this message to acknowledge the pain and outrage of so many. We are equally appalled at the horrific display which played out on television and in social media for millions to see.Before I attempt to explain what the Virginia Beach Police Department has and is doing to prevent an incident similar to what occurred in Minneapolis, Minnesota from happening here, let me say this: We can and will be better. I am proud of our police department and even more so of the men and women who would willingly sacrifice their lives for those they have never met nor may ever meet again. However, we are not perfect. As a continuous learning organization, we understand the value of self-reflection and proactively seek opportunities for improvement. These efforts are bolstered through forward-thinking training, policy and procedure development and internal accountability measures which far exceed national standards. We also realize meaningful change and progress occurs when we work with, not in opposition to, the members of our community. These policies, procedures and training protocols are constantly scrutinized, trained by subject matter experts and reviewed annually. In an effort to be transparent and hold ourselves accountable, these policies have been made available on the Police Department's web site.We have gone to great lengths to develop industry-leading policy and training protocols that minimize use of force incidents. With an emphasis on de-escalation techniques and Crisis Intervention Team training, our officers used force in less than two-tenths of a percent of all citizen contacts in 2019. Even still, each use of force incident is thoroughly evaluated for both policy compliance and training efficacy through a multi-layered review process, starting at the first-line supervisory level. If an incident is deemed to be out of policy, an internal investigation is promptly initiated by the Office of Internal Affairs.For many years, we have prohibited the use of restraint tactics that involve placing a knee on a person's neck; instead, focusing on the application of safer techniques. Recently, we acquired new soft-wrap technology designed to fully restrain a subject, while allowing them to remain in an upright, seated position. This dramatically reduces the risks associated with positional asphyxia. Should one officer observe another violating the use of force policy or any of our policies for that matter, our active bystander training protocols require intervention. This affirms our duty to protect and preserve human life, regardless of circumstance. In addition, policies dictate that a first-line supervisor must respond to an incident involving use of force on or an allegation of bias by those we encounter. Should an individual believe they were subjected to biased-based treatment, the case is documented, and an internal investigation is initiated.I highlight these efforts to reaffirm your confidence in our agency and to ask that you not lose faith in the men and women who so selflessly serve this community. We fully support your right to peacefully assemble and to demonstrate against the very circumstances that brought about so much anger. Only through continued open and honest dialogue – where all are willing to listen – will we be effective in building upon the trust and legitimacy we have worked so hard to obtain. We can and will make a better tomorrow – together.The following is a letter from the Major Cities Chiefs Association on police accountability:https://www.majorcitieschiefs.com/pdf/news/mcca_calls_for_informed_approach_to_reform.pdfTony ZucaroInterim Chief of PoliceVirginia Beach Police Department2509 Princess Anne RoadVirginia Beach, VA 23456

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