Police vs. Civilians: What will it take to establish an effective Police Civilian Review Board?

In 2008, when then Charlottesville Police Chief Tim Longo provided his recommendations for a proposed Police Civilian Review Panel to City Council, he used an argument that those pushing for a strong CRB in Charlottesville, given the current climate, would have likely found laughable.

“Charlottesville is fortunate to have a professional, well trained police department that does not have the inherent problems found in other departments where oversight committees have been formed,” wrote Longo, saying that was the reason the Panel only need to have an advisory role. He also defended the department’s internal review and disciplinary process by saying they had a “strongly worded policy governing bias-based policing.”

Longo’s recommendation also revealed that a “Police Complaint Review Panel” that reviewed police incidents existed in Charlottesville from 1991 through 1997, but Longo said it was disbanded due to “lack of complaints, interest, and change in personnel.”

Quinton Harrell says he was on the Review Panel from 2009 to 2010. Harrell founded Heritage United Builders, which helps African-American and minority sub-contractors find jobs, and was a facilitator for the Dialogue on Race at the time. It was a difficult time, he remembers, as he was reeling from the Great Recession, running a business, and pursuing a business degree, but the challenge he recalls the Review Panel having was the same as it is today.

“The panel’s challenge would be its definition to the community, its relation to Chief Longo’s office, and what purpose it could truly serve to effectuate change,” says Harrell. “I couldn’t see it, and in the end I just didn’t have time to play a role in strengthening the purpose.” Like the “Police Complaint Review Panel” before it, the “Police Civilian Review Panel” would quietly disappear. Read more…

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