VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) — Effective immediately, changes will start being made to the way the citizen group — meant to serve as a “check” on police — operates in Virginia Beach, in order to better instill confidence in those who use it.
In the future, no longer will a person who has a complaint concerning their interaction with the Virginia Beach Police Department have to file a complaint with the police. Upon the recommendation of Councilman Aaron Rouse — a person will be able to go to the city manager’s office to make the complaint that launches the review process.
The change is one of several new City Manager Patrick Duhaney will make to the Independent Review Panel (IRP) procedures over time. Others include:
- Allowing the panel to hear all complaints they are requested to hear, even if they don’t surround “abuse of power” or “misconduct”
- Allowing the IRP to initiate a hearing on behalf of a citizen
- Better publicizing the panel’s services and
- Mandating a written response from the police department within 30 days for all recommendations made by the IRP.
Regina Hilliard, the city’s director of human resources who currently is the staff contact for the panel, said Tuesday that those are the few recommendations that can be made without City Council approval. In talks with the Virginia Beach African American Roundtable, Human Rights Commission, and current Investigation Review Panel, they also recommend expanding the number of panelists to enhance diversity. There is even a recommendation to change the name to “Citizen Review Board” for clarity.
Since the death of George Floyd in custody of Minneapolis Police, calls for greater police accountability have increased across the country, including in Virginia Beach. Advocates want a review board in which citizens have the power to investigate police themselves and hand down discipline without the interference of the city.
Currently City Council does not have the power to grant such powers. Current legislation in Richmond could change that.
Virginia Beach’s IRP was the first in the state to form in 1991 following the Greek Fest riots at the Oceanfront in 1989. Two other localities that have similar panels are Fairfax County and Charlottesville.
Norfolk has never had any police oversight group but its City Council directed the city manager to work on forming one earlier this summer.
On Tuesday, City Manager Chip Filer explained that he still needs additional input from council members to decide how exactly they want the board to operate.
Filer proposes going after a “Community Public Safety Commission” model that allows board members to investigate police misconduct and make recommendations on discipline, while also meeting more regularly to provide broader recommendations on hiring policy and training policy.
What he needs to know most though, is who City Council wants to be on the board. Should there be former law enforcement? How should members be appointed? How many members?
“This is perhaps the most important part about setting these boards up,” Filer said. “If it is deemed that this was set up in a manner that cooks the books either direction, you immediately have invalidated the ability of this panel to do good work.”
Filer is hoping to get more input back from council and have a plan to start accepting appointment applications by Nov. 1