RICHMOND, Va. — Should Richmond’s citizens have more oversight and authority over the city’s police officers?
Mayor Levar Stoney said the framework that he's pitching for the CRB would be fitting for Richmond.
"My belief has always been when we can appreciate the work our police department does, but we can also hold police officers accountable as well, particularly when it comes to misconduct.
Richmond NAACP President JJ Minor thinks so and supports most of Mayor Stoney’s proposal to establish a seven-member civilian review board in the city.
“We are living in some rough times, and police officers should be held accountable as well,” Minor stated.
The board would review serious cases of police misconduct, like officer-involved shootings or allegations of police abuse.
Since 2020, Richmond Police Chief Gerald Smith, Stoney and the city council have agreed that a civilian review board should exist in the city. Now, the work is focused on deciding how much influence the board should have over the police.
The goal of the civilian review board is to foster trust and maintain accountability between the public and police.
If the plan passes, the board will focus on serious cases of police misconduct, deaths in custody, officer-involved shootings and allegations of abuse.
The board would review cases after Richmond Police complete their investigation. The members would not be able to impose direct punishments on officers, but instead, send recommendations to the police chief.
The city’s civilian review board would have the power to hire outside investigators and request subpoenas from a circuit court judge.
“The civilian review board should be able to make recommendations, to compel prosecutors to file charges against police officers who exhibit or display unusual conduct,” Minor explained.
Minor stressed that the board should be independent of the police department.
“The civilian review board should be determined by the make-up of the community that’s being served and they must be effective,” he said. “They should not be housed in the Richmond Police headquarters either.”
Opponents worry the additional oversight will push some officers out and make it harder for Richmond Police to hire more employees.
“I think they’ll have to go out harder and do more recruitment, yes. But everyone has to be held accountable,” Minor stated.
Mayor Stoney said his budget proposal boosts starting pay for starting Richmond officers and sees the CRB plan as a resident-focused aspect to policing transparency.
"You get that from this administration. Our support of our police department through more funding, salary increases. But also through accountability as well. Something our community wants to see too," Stoney said.
Dr. William Pelfrey, a professor at Virginia Commonwealth University's L. Douglas Wilder School of Government and Public Affairs, was asked by Stoney's office to compile and present recommendations on a civilian review board. The formation of the board in Richmond comes after protests and advocacy from local racial equality groups.
Pelfrey said Richmond is the exception among most medium and large cities across the nation that established a civilian review board years ago. He stated that the city has not had a huge need for police oversight.
After analyzing data, he found Richmond doesn’t have a long history of deaths in custody, tragic events, federal lawsuits and consent decrees that have plagued police departments across the country.