Sometimes major problems call for creative solutions.
Listening to others works, too.
The York-Poquoson Sheriff’s Office announced Monday the creation of a Citizen Advisory Committee, which will consist seven to nine county residents who have an active interest in bridging the gap between community members and the sheriff’s office.
Leading the group will be sheriff’s office Maj. Ron Montgomery, who actively pursued the formation of the committee. He reached out to Rev. Penelope Carroll and business owner D’Shawn Wright to be co-chairs on the committee.
Montgomery said he and Sheriff Danny Diggs had been attending some public forms, both online and in-person, where community members were discussing current topics, including race relations and defunding the police.
“That’s how it led me to get D’Shawn Wright and Penelope Carroll involved because they were active in leading these forums,” he said, “I found them to be quite good and the sheriff did as well.”
Carroll is founder of Inner Haven Metaphysical Ministry in Williamsburg. She said she and her family have been residents of York County for generations. Carroll hosted an online forum on Aug. 15 to discuss current events and race relations with the police in the community.
Diggs and Montgomery, along with other community leaders, attended that forum. A week later, Montgomery reached out to her asking if she would be co-chair of the committee.
“That was something we had just talked about the week before, and I just thought ‘wow, look at the response time,'” Carroll said.
Carroll added she found the sheriff’s office was usually open to helping the community. She had previous conversations with officials before about how York County helps kids with autism.
“We had a really interesting discussion and even sometimes debate,” Carroll said, adding she felt the meeting was productive and emphasized the importance of understanding where others are coming from.
Montgomery said the sheriff’s office has been hearing many questions from the community regarding use of force. After the death of George Floyd back in May, and now with the shooting of Jacob Blake, an incident that left him paralyzed, many community members have expressed concern about de-escalation tactics and relations with local police.
“We try to be transparent and talk about where we see mistakes,” Montgomery said.
He added he is confident excessive force will not be an issue with the sheriff’s office because of the training they have received.
“I think we have had good training. I think more is needed, and the sheriff agrees with me on that,” he said.
The sheriff’s office is interested in getting more sensitivity and diversity training, but with the pandemic, having in-person training is difficult.
More training also means more money.
“I think what we do really well here in York County is that we interact with our deputies that are out there on the road. If something occurs on a national level, then we go into the line-ups and we actually have discussions with the deputies and let them know how we feel about it,” Montgomery said.
But a little more feedback from the community never hurts.
“We are very interested in our relationship with the community,” Montgomery said. “I think this committee will be good in making sure we are moving forward and getting that input from the community.”
Carroll added she hopes the committee will act as a thread to sew the community together “because sometimes we are divided in ways we didn’t even realize.”
The sheriff’s office is accepting applications for committee members through Sept. 7. Community members can sign up by accessing the application here. You must either live, own a business or have an active role in York County to be considered as a committee member.
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