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Process to Establish Richmond Civilian Review Board Moves Ahead

Michael Jones
Council member Michael Jones at a Richmond City Council meeting in 2019. (Photo: Crixell Matthews/VPM News)

A Richmond City Council committee approved an ordinance Thursday that would create a task force to establish a civilian review board with subpoena powers, which would independently investigate police misconduct and residents’ complaints. 

The Governmental Operations Standing Committee approved the measure in a unanimous vote. The city clerk’s office says it is expected to be voted on by the full City Council on Monday. 

Before voting, the committee members heard remarks from the public. They also heard from Eli Coston with the Richmond Transparency and Accountability Project, a local law enforcement watchdog group, on the importance of community oversight of policing.

"When you have police policing themselves, many community members see that as illegitimate,” Coston said. A civilian review board that is independent from police influence has been one of the main demands from participants of the ongoing protests in the region.

If passed by the full council, the ordinance would require the 9-member task force to include at least one person under the age of 18, a resident of public housing, and an individual with a disability, to ensure a diversity of perspectives.

“Community members impacted by over policing should have a central role in forming civilian oversight bodies and making these recommendations. The fact of the matter is not all citizens experience policing in the same way,” Coston said.

The ordinance was proposed by five of the nine council members -- Andreas Addison, Michael Jones, Stephanie Lynch, Ellen Robertson and Council President Cynthia Newbille. During the meeting, Jones called on city officials to not only “hide behind recommendations” from a task force, and to create real police reform.

“This institution was formed on the heels and in the backdrop of slavery,” he said. “There has to be a forward glance and a present look and how we do law enforcement in our city.” 

City Council is expected to vote on the ordinance during a meeting Monday at 6 p.m. Video and audio of the meeting will be livestreamed online.

CORRECTION: We used an inaccurate name for Eli Coston. We have corrected the article.

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