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City Council Removes Former Law Enforcement From Review Board Task Force

Richmond Police face off with protesters
FILE PHOTO: Richmond Police face off with protesters back in June. The protests against racism and police brutality this summer amplified calls for a civilian review board for police misconduct. (Crixell Matthews/VPM)

Richmond City Council’s Governmental Operations Committee approved a new slate of candidates to a task force working to establish a civilian review board for police misconduct.

The Task Force for Establishing a Civilian Review Board will outline both how the future board will operate and investigate reports of police misconduct. Council delayed putting together a final list of nominations for weeks, as they debated whether two former law enforcement officers should be allowed to serve on the board. In October, City Council’s Public Safety Committee nominated former Petersburg Police Chief John Dixon III and former officer Charlene Hinton

While some members argued the task force should represent a variety of viewpoints, others said law enforcement should have no part in implementing new accountability measures.

“If we are setting up a body that is going to do oversight of the police, I don’t know that we should have members of law enforcement, past or present, a part of that task force,” Council Member Michael Jones said. “That gives individuals who are not trusting of the police for their own reasons a moment of pause.”

Richmond City Council members seemingly reached an impasse, delaying a vote again Monday night. 

On Wednesday, the Governmental Operations Committee removed three candidates, including Dixon and Hinton. The third person removed was John Gerner, a leisure industry consultant who previously served as vice-chair on the Navy Hill Development Advisory Commission

VPM previously reported that Dixon, who served as the head of the Petersburg Bureau of Police from 2007 to 2016, was fired in 2016 amid allegations of corruption within the department. Dironna Moore Belton, the acting city manager at the time, told reporters Dixon’s firing was unrelated to the corruption allegations.

The committee tapped three new candidates to fill the vacated spots: Jewel Gatling, Erik Nielsen and Sylvia Wood. Both Gatling and Wood have experience with Black-centered activism and community engagement. Wood is the former president of both the Richmond Crusade for Voters and the Richmond branch of the NAACP. Gatling is currently the executive director of Brown Virginia. Nielsen, an associate professor at the University of Richmond, focuses his research on hip-hop culture and African American literature.

In voting to approve the changes, Richmond City Council President Cynthia Newbille cited the newly passed state law that prevents some people who formerly worked in law enforcement from serving on a civilian review board. 

Among the five other members are two from the police reform advocacy group Richmond Transparency and Accountability Project (RTAP). The organization has been advocating for a civilian review board since 2017. The call for increased police accountability, and the specific demand for a review board, was echoed by Black Lives Matter protesters in Richmond who took to the streets this summer.

The slate of eight nominations will need final approval from the full City Council in January, after two new members are sworn in. Under the ordinance adopted back in July, The Task Force for Establishing a Civilian Review Board will then have until March 1 to submit recommendations.

The full list of members appointed to the task force:

  • Angela Fontaine, a career consultant with experience in social work
  • Eli Coston, assistant professor at VCU and a police reform activist
  • Edward Miller, senior director of data analytics for West Creek and president of Marijuana Justice
  • Jewel Gatling, executive director of Brown Virginia
  • Sylvia Wood, former president of the Richmond Crusade for Voters & the Richmond chapter of the NAACP
  • Erik Nielsen, associate professor at the University of Richmond focused on African American literature
  • Keith Anthony Turner, former member of the Richmond Behavioral Health Authority and person with disabilities
  • Oliver Parker Hale, rising senior at St. Christopher's School


One task force position set aside for a resident of Richmond’s public housing communities did not receive any applicants and has not been filled.


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