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…


Knock, knock: men involved in Mall “beating” tell their side of the story


Kiara Redd-Martin, Richard Spears, Kishara Joy Griffin, and Malcolm Stevenson.

The DTM – In an exclusive interview with the two men arrested and charged with assault in connection with a December 20 altercation on the Downtown Mall, which was initially portrayed as a “knock out” style attack for mere sport and entertainment by the alleged victims in the press and on Facebook, Malcolm Stevenson and Richard Spears offered their account of what happened that night. The interview was facilitated by Kiara Redd-Martin and Kishara Joy Griffin, two young African-American activists (and friends of the men) who say they feel “disappointed and angry” about the way the story was initially portrayed in the press, and encouraged their friends to come forward.

“We believe it was negligent journalism,” says Redd-Martin, a 24-year old graduate of Old Dominion University who is now pursuing a graduate degree in administrative justice, talking about the first story about the incident that ran in Cville Weekly, ” which did not take into account the character of these two men, or attempt to get their side of the story.” READ MORE

Glitchy system: Inside the student software debacle

Why did Albemarle County school officials commit nearly $2 million to a software system that has proven faulty, despite multiple complaints from teachers that using it was a “waste of time,” and an admission from one County school official that it was “glitchy, to say the least”?

At a time when school systems are facing budget cuts, losing teachers, and seeing classroom size increase, spending on technology has soared. Indeed, terms like “digital learners” and “data driven education” have captured the imaginations– and purse strings– of school administrators.

Just recently, the Charlottesville School Board announced that it will spend $2.4 million on new tablet-type laptops for students. According to a recent article in the New York Times, education, technology, and big business are now entangled to the tune of $1.89 billion a year, the amount that schools spent on software for classroom use in 2010. Spending on hardware, researchers say, was likely five times that amount.

However, according to experts interviewed by the Times, there is very little specific evidence that using technology in the schools enhances learning.

“There is insufficient evidence to spend that kind of money. Period, period, period,” said Larry Cuban, an education professor emeritus at Stanford University, in the Times. “There is no body of evidence that shows a trend line.”

However, a Hook investigation reveals one possible trend line in the County school system: implementing the software system may have benefited top school administrators, and the company they contracted with, more than it has teachers and students.

But getting answers hasn’t been easy. read more