During its recent meeting (April 20) at the Convention Center, Virginia Beach City Council reversed an earlier decision and voted 6-5 to create a city task force that would study the impact of a police oversight panel.
The action was supported by members of the Black community who had pushed for the council to establish and fund a Citizens Review Board with full investigating power in complaints involving police officers in an effort to improve transparency, accountability and trust.
The recent push is being driven by the current investigation into the fatal shooting by police of Donovon Wayne Lynch at the Oceanfront on March 26, 2021. His case is being investigated by the Virginia State Police.
“If we had a board with full powers to Investigate, why would we need to ask the State Police to investigate this case,” Rev. Gary McCollum told the GUIDE for an earlier story. “They have created an atmosphere of distrust. We need a commission that is fully staffed. Funded with investigative, subpoena and punishment powers.”
In a release urging residents to show up for last week’s council meeting, McCollum, a member of the Virginia Beach Ministerial Council, said, “VAB Council leadership in the form of Bobby Dyer and Jim Wood, is tone-deaf to the movement sweeping across the nation. Black and Brown people everywhere are demanding police accountability and access to information.”
Councilwoman Sabrina Wooten, who presented the resolution on behalf of the community, was supported by Council members Aaron Rouse, Guy Tower, Louis Jones, Jessica Abbott and John Moss. Members voting no were Mayor Bobby Dyer, Vice Mayor Jim Wood, and council members Barbara Henley, Michael Berlucchi and Rosemary Wilson.
The shooting of Lynch came the weekend before the trial of the former Minneapolis Police Officer, Derek Chauvin, who killed George Floyd while kneeling on his neck in May of 2020. Chauvin has been found guilty and faces up to 40 years in prison.
That incident ignited a worldwide civil rights movement and further eroded confidence in policing from the Black community.
During the 2021 session of the Virginia General Assembly, legislators passed a new law which will be implemented on July 1 related to Citizens Review Commissions. It states that civilian oversight groups must reflect the demographic diversity of the city.