Politics and political influence have no place in law enforcement and public safety. The Virginia Beach Sheriff’s office has been weaponized by partisan politicians for far too long, resulting in the hindering of much-needed progress for the community. The Sheriff’s office needs to enact reforms that will eliminate politics in the decision-making process and allow us to make decisions based on evidence and community input.
So many in our community feel isolated from law enforcement officers and that’s a problem. If citizens don’t trust law enforcement and feel like they can’t reach out for help, that is a public safety issue that impacts our ability to keep residents and visitors safe. We need to build relationships and better engage the community, particularly with neighborhoods that are underserved and underrepresented.
Our country and community is dealing with a mental health crisis, which is an often overlooked detail in law enforcement and criminal justice. We need to increase access to mental health resources in our jail system to provide those who need mental health care the support they need. This combined with increasing programs designed to rehabilitate inmates will lower the recidivism rate and make sure that once someone has served their time, they return to our community and stay out of jail. Additionally, we need to make sure that our officers have the resources they need so they can take care of their own mental health needs. It must be made clear to our officers that it is not only okay to seek help but important that they do.
The way our law enforcement officers are currently being trained is outdated and updates are needed in order to better serve our community. It is important that we incorporate the lived experiences of our citizens into public safety and reprioritize community policing, an art that has been lost in law enforcement. Training and educating our law enforcement officers to proactively address public safety issues by engaging with the community and creating relationships is going to be key for our community moving forward.