NEWPORT NEWS — Steve Drew seems to always be on the go, often out and about meeting and talking with residents since he became the city’s police chief in July.
One of those community meetings was on Monday at the local Piggly Wiggly, where residents voiced their questions and concerns about community safety.
More than 40 residents attended, including members of the local neighborhood watch group, Shore Patrol.
Drew shared his plans for the department, which included a Police Athletic League program where officers coach and mentor youth sports teams, and a new division with 20 diverse officers dedicated to community outreach.
He also wants a ‘Use of Force’ review board, a panel of different ranked police officers and two graduates of the Citizens Police Academy — the board will view body camera footage and other evidence to determine if use of force was necessary.
Drew plans to transfer more officers to the homicide division by September, establish the Use of Force review board by October and the new PAL program by next summer.
“We have to start something and move forward,” he told the attendees.
Dorlyne Washington-Brown, a retired teacher who lives on 41st Street, said someone broke into her home a couple months ago. She insisted responding officers refused to investigate and told her “what do you want us to do?”
She works at the C. Waldo Scott Center for HOPE and wants the local youth to be able to identify Drew as the police chief.
“I want them to know that the policemen are their friends,” she said.
Another resident fears that her son will get hurt if he encounters an officer who doesn’t know he has a mental illness.
Drew said the police department is currently short 40 officers, with 25 of them still in the academy.
While few residents asked questions or expressed concerns, many nodded or murmured in agreement.
Carolyn Hawkins, who lives in her childhood home on 16th Street, said the meeting went well. Her sister, Peggy McConnell, who lives next door, agrees.
“The neighborhood kids are finally going to have something to do and get off the streets,” McConnell said.
Keisha Radcliffe, a prospective Newport News resident, attended the meeting to learn more about the community. Originally from Chicago, Radcliffe said she feels that crime in downtown Newport News is “contained,” but wants residents to have a better “rapport with officers.”
“This can be an example for a major city,” she said.
Capt. Morgen Tietjens of the South Precinct in Newport News is also excited about the future of the department.
“He is exactly what we need,” Tietjens said.
The next community meeting is at 6:30 p.m. on Aug. 29 at the First Baptist Church, 12716 Warwick Blvd.