NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) — A small band of protesters is now calling the lawn outside Norfolk City Hall home. They are fighting for something that Virginia Code protects from being disclosed: release of police use of force reports.
Virginia Code allows departments to withhold any records related to any criminal investigation.
So, in light of the sit-in in Norfolk that has moved into its second day, 10 On Your Side reached out to several police departments responded to our request for how they handle “use of force” reports.
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Several responded with something like this:
“Since the use of force reports are part of a criminal investigation we would not release them. That is why we do release aggregate data, like in our annual reports.”
On Tuesday around 4 p.m., WAVY News 10’s Andy Fox could hear the sounds in the distance marching toward Norfolk City Hall, chanting phrases like “No justice, no peace” and “Black lives matter.”
The protesters want Norfolk Police to release use of force reports. They want to see the reports themselves.
Norfolk City Manager Chip Filer indicates the city is already preparing to release an overall analysis of what could be 16,000 reports — to include use of force.
“As a result, it’s going to be most prudent to engage an outside entity to comb through these records, analyze them, and then give us some feedback,” Filer told 10 On Your Side in an exclusive interview.
Filer was with some of the protesters today, and he sees the sit-in. He says he gets it, and so does City Council.
“We understand the request. The City [Council members] want us to do better. We want to figure out an appropriate and efficient way to disseminate the statistics.”
Police Chief Larry Boone says he won’t release the actual use of force reports.
“I am for releasing the analysis from those ‘use of force’ reports with the support of City Council,” Boone said.
What will be released is likely to be a “dashboard,” which is a side-by-side that contains the data and analysis combed from the use of force reports.
“How can we aggregate the data in a manner that tells a story of how Norfolk is policed as well as giving us some indication on how we would like to move forward in policing the city?” Filer said.
Sit-in protest organizer Tyler Woodard is practical on what will eventually be delivered.
“We have a solidarity communion and an open dialogue of different opinions, which is just as important and just as paramount for this protest as the release of the use of force reports,” Woodard said.
If that is the standard for success, then the sit-in could already be a success by simply drawing attention to what they consider an important issue.
“There is a gap of trust between law enforcement and the community. Before we can ever have these roundtable conversations on policy, we have to start bridging that,” he said.
It’s unclear how long this sit-in will last. The city manager indicated they can stay as long as it’s peaceful. Organizers told us the sit-in will last as long as people keep showing up to camp out at City Hall down by the light rail tracks.