Chief of Norfolk: Restrictive prosecution policy means officers fight crime with ‘one hand tied behind their back’

NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) – Norfolk City Council has preliminary approved police authorization to re-engage in high-speed chases to arrest someone while driving a stolen car.

The move is a reversal of the current city council policy ordered last June, which only allows high-speed police chases for suspects accused of causing serious injury or death to others or of having showed a handgun in a crime.

Police Chief Larry Boone on Tuesday called on City Council to change prosecution policy he called “one of the most restrictive in the state” to help the department fight an increase car thefts. He said he understood the policy was put in place in the name of police reform – following George Floyd’s death at the hands of Minneapolis Police – 18 months had revealed a lot.

“As an organization, we embrace police reform,” Boone said. “But I think we may have crossed the line to some extent.”

Boone said currently, when officers see a stolen car, they will attempt to start a traffic stop. But too often, the suspect vehicle accelerates as the officer approaches. Because of politics, this often ends the meeting.

“They play with our officers,” Boone told the council. “It goes against their morale … [criminals] say to people… coming from nearby towns… ‘Norfolk will not pursue you.’ This has been the growing narrative for 18 months now. ”

Violent crime on the rise in Norfolk in 2021. In July, nearly a dozen children and adolescents were shot dead. Community members demand change.

Boone thinks it could start by being more aggressive in recovering stolen vehicles.

Boone said that from last August his department began to see a trend with the number of stolen vehicles and shootings.

A graphic showing stolen and recovered vehicles in Norfolk in relation to shootings (Courtesy: City of Norfolk)

Frequently, he said that guns were found in stolen vehicles and that stolen vehicles were used in car shootings.

Boone said officers would still not have free rein to start the prosecution. Police supervisors would still make that call.

“Officers must balance the gravity of the situation and the importance of the objective of law enforcement against the risks to the safety and well-being of the citizens and police personnel involved,” said Boone. .

City council unanimously approved the chief’s request to start changing the prosecution policy, but still wants answers on what other ways the chief expected to tackle crime.

The chief said 41 officers have now been deployed to crime “hot spots” in the city and that traffic has been closed within 700 to 800 blocks of Granby Street to assist curb recent violence in the Neon District.

Several members of the city council wanted to know what the police said was “holding them back” in the performance of their duties. Mayor Kenny Alexander therefore called for a more comprehensive review.

“Look at the current policies that may be restrictive and what practices exist and what procedures we can improve so that you can bring something back, so that some of the questions we were wondering can be answered,” Alexander said.

Boone continued to point out, as he often does, that the police cannot solve the problem on their own, but for the time being he said “they are fighting with one hand tied behind their back”.

“Right now, the only action we can take as an organization that will have an impact is to prosecute stolen cars,” said Boone. “As soon as they realize that we are not going to put up with this, they will take their things elsewhere.”

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About Natalee Broderick

Natalee Broderick

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