The Virginia Beach City Council unanimously voted Wednesday night to create a new 11-member Independent Citizen Review Board that will investigate civil complaints and decades of police policies. century.
It comes after a early March retreat where city leaders have said they will Not implemented a newly passed state law allowing localities to strengthen their review boards in the wake of the murder of George Floyd.
According to community leaders involved in the fight, the change of many city leaders came after the police shooting of a 25-year-old man on March 26. Donovan Lynch—An incident that gained national attention, in part because Lynch was a cousin of Virginia Beach native and musician Pharrell Williams.
Williams, who did not respond to a request for comment on Wednesday write a letter in October with the city manager about his decision not to bring a popular music festival back to his home city because of the death of his cousin. Williams wrote at the time that a “toxic energy” changed the narrative surrounding Lynch’s shooting.
Sean Montiero, chair of the task force that worked over the summer to propose the new council, which was approved by city leaders on Wednesday, said: Lynch’s shooting was clearly a lot more urgent.”
Montiero said the nationwide outrage following Floyd’s murder in 2020 was the “catalyst” for the city to finally consider police surveillance after “years” over the grievances of some. people. But he said Lynch’s shooting in March happened near his home and “elevated” the conversation.
Lynch, a 6-foot-tall black university administrator and youth volunteer coordinator in Virginia Beach, dined with a friend during an unrelated shooting nearby on the night of March 26, attracted a police presence, according to a lawsuit filed by his family.
While leaving the restaurant and going to his car, the plaintiff claimed that he encountered Solomon Simmons, a Black officer with the Virginia Police Department who allegedly shot Lynch twice when he was are responding to an ongoing shooting. According to the lawsuit, Simmons, “immediately, illegally and without warning” opened fire twice and killed him.
In court filings in response to the lawsuit, Simmons argued that he saw Lynch in an “active shooting” situation and said he heard what sounded like “the slide of a gun.” short put a bullet into the chamber” and rotate in the direction of the sound. to see Lynch crouching behind the bushes. He said he called and Lynch “got up and turned around” with a gun in his hand and pointed it in Simmons’ direction at which point he fired two shots. According to court filings, Simmons said he did not turn on his body camera because he was focused on “the threat of deadly force.”
In a press conference about March 27Virginia Beach Police Chief Paul Neudigate said the police presence began in the area that night after seven people were shot in an altercation that escalated into gunfire. One victim was Deshalya Harris, a 28-year-old Black woman from Neudigate who he believes was an “innocent victim” of stray gunfire.
Neudigate said Lynch’s shooting happened in the same vicinity but was not related to the original gunfight. In a statement on March 29, the police department said it interviewed the officer involved in the shooting, an officer who witnessed the incident and “independent witnesses”. The Lynch Reports Department “wasting” a handgun at the time of the shooting and a firearm was recovered at the scene. The next day the police station announced The investigation into the death has been turned over to the Virginia State Police.
“The Lynch family and each officer involved deserve a thorough and thorough investigation into this incident, and we appreciate the public’s patience as we pursue all aspects of it.”
The Virginia Police Department did not respond to a request for comment.
Wayne Lynch, Donovan’s father, declined to comment because of the ongoing investigation. On Wednesday, however, he said WAVY, after sitting in the vote to form the police review board, “It took a long time to come to this.”
After the high-profile mass shooting in March, Montiero said the “air of conflict” to give more power and authority to police review boards in the city had dissipated. In April, the city council narrowly approved setting up a task force to study potential changes to their review board. The city’s mayor, Bobby Dyer, who has a vote on the council, voted against the task force measure, expressing concern that the initiative could hamper recruitment and retention efforts at the police station.
Dyer, who voted for the final bill, did not respond to a request for comment.
“I think the devil is in the details with a lot of that.
Montiero says that among the task force’s goals is to get the community’s opinion on what they would like to see in a revamped review board. He said the power to subpoena and the stronger power to independently investigate cases of alleged misconduct were two important things he had heard.
“I feel like we’ve moved the needle in that direction,” he said, though he’s not quick to call the current proposal all that is being sought. “I think there’s a lot more as this thing matures that we can do to tighten it up and make sure it still has the effect we’re looking for.”
In Wednesday’s vote, board members hailed the formation of the new board as a good “first step”. However, some council members expressed concern.
ND “Rocky” Holcomb said during the meeting that as a former law enforcement officer he supported the changes, but hoped that “issues” would be resolved in the future regarding the right to subpoena. “I really think the devil is having a lot of detail,” he said.
Dyer said the passage of the new ordinance was “the first step of a journey” and said the council would make the necessary “course corrections and adjustments” going forward.
However, Secretary and activist Gary McCullom warned that the new panel, which he has supported for more than decades, will not have the power needed to ensure transparency and accountability.
He worries that the new board that has been passed may not be as “independent” as some people think. Among McCullom’s concerns, shared by others who spoke in public comment Wednesday, was that the new board head would report to the city manager, not the city manager. city Council.
“If you want this to be a real citizen review board, report it to the unit where the citizens actually hire and fire,” he said. “We don’t hire and fire city managers.”
McCullom said he was concerned a city manager could reduce the effectiveness of the board because they would control the board’s budget.
Virginia Beach City Manager Patrick Duhaney did not respond to a request for comment. During Wednesday’s council meeting, Dyer said he was confident the city manager was “capable” of moving the board in the right direction. “
Another concern, McCullom said, is that while the new board has the power to subpoena, it can only do it with a supermajority vote, rather than a majority vote.
For a panel that will be appointed by council members, some of whom say only support the new panel because of “political pressure”, McCullom said he was worried the rules would allow board members “stacking” the board with preferred choices will prevent the board from actually using the power that many have contested.
“You should not obstruct the board by saying that the board must have a majority. Just make it a simple majority,” he said. “In fact, by making it a supermajority, you’ll never get a subpoena out of that body.”
None of the Virginia Beach City Council members responded to requests for comment for this story.
Despite his criticism, McCullom also agrees that the new board is a step in the right direction. He said he hoped lingering issues with the board could be resolved when the 11-member board is appointed and trained and operational.
“Yes, that is a good first step,” he said. “But we can’t wait to see the second, third and fourth seasons to really say we’re on the right track.”
https://www.thedailybeast.com/it-took-the-killing-of-pharrells-cousin-donovan-lynch-for-virginia-beach-pols-to-vote-to-rein-in-their-cops?source=articles&via=rss | It Killed Pharrell Donovan Lynch’s Cousin So the Virginia Beach Pols Vote for Rein on Their Police