LYNCHBURG, Va (WFXR) — Recent police-related tragedies have left community members to wonder what changes are being made to prevent more devastation. On Saturday, Feb. 4, a roundtable discussion about social justice and community policing was held in Lynchburg. The discussion was inspired by a new collection of paintings done by the artist, Robert Pennix.
“These images may look negative to the police, but these are images that we see all the time, and we want to make it better, that’s all,” said Pennix.
The paintings depict images of the unjust police force and a series of faces of individuals who have lost their lives to police brutality.
“These images came to me after all the things that were happening in society,” Pennix said.
Chief of the Lynchburg Police Department, Ryan Zuidema says there need to be more open and honest conversations.
“Actually meeting people where they are, having face-to-face conversations and explaining our perspective to each other and I think if we continue to do that and start with what we have in common and work backwards from there instead of starting with our differences I think we can make some real progress,” Zuidema said.
Zuidema adds that the Lynchburg Police Department is working to ensure officers are evaluated regularly and fit to stay on the force.
President of the Lynchburg Police Foundation, Rick Loving, says officers have a responsibility to hold each other accountable — no matter what.
“But there’s gotta be this kind of collective thing that says when we see wrongdoing at every stage we gotta be able to call that out, it can’t become a part of our culture,” said Loving.
Councilman Dr. Sterling Wilder says one of the biggest steps to creating stronger relationships is understanding and recognizing perspective.
“One thing I always say is look at it through a different lens, like a person who might be a Caucasian male might not look at the same situation me being an African American male, might not look at situations in the same manner,” said Dr. Wilder.
Chief Zuidema says he encourages his officers to go into the community and make connections, Pennix says something as simple as an introduction can make a huge difference.
“Talk to them, you know, stop and say hi, shoot a basket with them,” said Pennix.
Loving adds that one of the most effective ways to promote peace– is by putting yourself in the other persons’ shoes.
“We’ve got to place yourself, somewhere else, in that person’s shoes, in that situation and then that’s when you start to break down those barriers with people,” said Loving.
Pennix said the profit from any art sold in this collection will be donated to the Equal Justice Initiative.