VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) — The chair of the Virginia Beach Citizens Review Panel task force said the group “left their biases” behind in their task to study what changes could be made to the way its citizen-led police watchdog group operates.
The 11-member panel, which has been meeting nearly every Monday night since June 28, now has less than three weeks to present their final report to City Council. The report will include a final recommendation on several issues, including whether the city should grant private citizens the ability to subpoena officers in the event of abuse of power or misconduct investigations.
City Council will then likely consider whether to accept the task force’s recommendations or not.
The debate on how to improve the 30-year-old Investigative Review Panel (IRP) have been ongoing since several high-profile police-involved killings in the United States led to civil unrest last year.
City Council formed the task force with a split 6-5 vote in April, following a Virginia Beach Police officer’s killing of Donovon Lynch in March.
“I am honored to work with all the task force members in here,” Sean Monteiro, chair of the task force, said. “I have not seen this much dedication to go ahead and accomplish something in such a short time.”
Monteiro, who serves in the United States Air Force, said he simply volunteered to serve on the task force upon hearing about the opportunity.
“I care about public safety in my community,” Monteiro said.
However those pushing for police reform initially expressed skepticism with some of the other task force members.
Former Virginia Beach Police Chief Jake Jacocks, former deputy city manager for public safety Steve Cover, former VBPD police captain Theresa Orr, William (Cliff) Rice, current IRP member and conservative radio host Michael Imprevento all have backgrounds in law enforcement.
Other members include: retired Judge Patricia West; Dr. Veronica Coleman, Pastor of New Jerusalem Ministries; Susan Mayo, current chair of the IRP; Dr. Karen Hills Pruden, Virginia Beach’s NAACP President and Yusuf Tejada who is chairman of the Virginia Beach Young Republicans.
Monteiro said the meetings have been filled with learning and productive discussions. He said everyone knows why they are here.
“Reinstating trust in the community, in our city officials, in our police force and also giving our citizens an avenue to bring complaints,” Monteiro said.
Thus far, the task force has received briefings from the police department, human resources department, police associations, Atlanta and Arlington citizen review boards and commonwealth’s attorney’s office.
For the first time Monday night, the group heard from citizens.
“There is a way to empower a citizen review panel with the tools they need such as investigation and subpoena power information,” said Melissa Lukeson, who spoke.
The IRP as it stands currently looks into claims of improper police conduct but they do not have investigative or disciplinary powers.
Newly-granted authority from the state allows for subpoena and disciplinary powers. Thus far, disciplinary powers have not been discussed.
Another public hearing was held Monday, August 16.
The task force have released a public survey asking for the community’s input and provide recommendations for the City Council.
The online survey can be found HERE.
CORRECTION: In the broadcast version of this story Mr. Monteiro’s name was misspelled. WAVY-TV apologizes for the error.