Here’s What You Need To Know From The Second Charlottesville Police Civilian Review Board Meeting

Charlottesville in the aftermath of the Unite the Right Rally in 2017. In the years since the city has worked to establish a civilian review board for the Charlottesville police, but it has taken years to get off the ground.

By Elle Meyers
July 8, 2020

Members of Charlottesville’s Police Civilian Review Board continued discussion on the role of an Executive Director position and considered the impact of changes that could be made by the General Assembly during the board’s second official meeting on Tuesday.

The PCRB, which has been years in the making, was plagued by technology problems during their two hour Zoom meeting on Tuesday evening. The group is still in flux as one member resigned before the first official meeting last week, and members work through bylaws that were altered by the city council.

In their first meeting, the group voted unanimously for the city council to revert the bylaws back to the original set put forth by the original members of the PCRB last year.

During Tuesday’s meeting the board used the majority of their time to discuss the role of an executive director on the board, which would be a paid position supervised by the city manager. The executive director of the board would handle incoming police complaints and act as a liaison between the board and city government officials, among other duties.

Some members of the board hesitated to finalize the executive director job description, citing concern that when the General Assembly meets for a special session in August their decisions could mean altering the position.

Before the protests over the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, the General Assembly’s August special session was expected to focus on economic recovery from the coronavirus pandemic. However, Democratic leaders in the state are pledging to pass laws later this summer designed to address issues of police misconduct.

The Virginia Legislative Black Caucus released a list of proposals, including police accountability measures that includes creating more civilian review boards in cities across the state and granting them subpoena power.

“I don’t see why we have to wait for the state,” PCRB member Nancy Carpenter said during the discussion. “I know there are some dynamic and really good ideas that the caucuses have put out for their special session and I certainly support their viewpoint 100% but I don’t want us here in Charlottesville to hamstring ourselves for the next 60 days.”

PCRB Chair James Watson explained that if the board puts forth a job description and hires an individual to fill the position before the General Assembly meets in August the board might have more work to do in altering the position to fit new guidelines.

“I think if we had a job description put out there by the city it should have some flexibility so that it can meet whatever ends up being the final ordinance,” Watson said. “I do see Nancy’s point, there is some risk in waiting [to hire someone] and kicking the can down the road but we also don’t want to pigeon hole ourselves because I don’t know how much flexibility the city has to change someone’s [job once they’re in it.]”

Members also discussed concerns over whether the executive director would still be independent enough from the city and whether the position would have too much power.

“You’re either going to have an executive director that has a lot of power and doesn’t share it with the board or have an executive director that works in conjunction with the board and shares power. [That’s important] because if you share power that’s how you’re going to make transformational change,” Carpenter said.

The board decided to continue working on the job description and revisit the issue as more details fall into place.

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