City blasts Police Civilian Review Board
A couple days after C-VILLE opinion columnist Molly Conger wrote about the importance of the still-developing but much-scrutinized Police Civilian Review Board, the board found itself the subject of another controversy.
The CRB has been working for nine months to create bylaws to establish a permanent board that will process complaints against the cops. In an April 23 story on its most recent meeting, the Daily Progress detailed a “breaking point” between the board and Police Chief RaShall Brackney, alleging that Brackney would not schedule a public meeting with CRB members.
Then the city sent out an unusual, unsigned press release refuting those claims, and accusing a CRB member of “inaccurately characteriz[ing]” emails between Brackney and the board, specifically that the chief “refused to meet or was not available for the entire month of June.”
“I am that board member, and I said no such thing,” says Josh Bowers, who adds that he couldn’t have mischaracterized the messages at the meeting, because he was reading them verbatim.
Bowers also denies saying Brackney refused to meet, though he did say it has been difficult to schedule meetings with her.
“No city official was at our last board meeting, so I’m not sure where the city got its information,” he says. “It is quite clear to me that those responsible for this press release failed to do their homework.”
Conger tweeted that it was a “deeply concerning development,” and it seemed “wildly inappropriate” for the city to issue such a “scathing” press release without any representatives at the CRB meeting.
The city also said in its release that the terms of the current board members would not be extended this summer, when a new board is supposed to be selected.
“This could be a death knell for the nascent civilian review board,” Conger wrote. “The only conclusion I can draw from this is that the city wants to smother the infant board in its crib.”
Linh Vinh, a member of the People’s Coalition that teamed up with the CRB to draft bylaws, says Brackney has been “superficially flexible” with her meeting schedule.
When the CRB expressed interest in creating a memorandum of understanding with the chief, which would focus on access to department data and files, she appeared interested in the collaborative process and asked Bowers to send her the draft.
“He sends it to her, and all of a sudden her availability is all booked up,” says Vinh. When Bowers asked if there were any dates outside of the suggested period that she could meet, says Vinh, “No response.”
Quote of the week
“I’m hoping a few more Democrats jump into the race for the White House. If the total hits 31, the party can open a Baskin-Robbins and name a flavor for each candidate.” —UVA Center for Politics director Larry Sabato in an April 24 tweet.
Two years into the Monument Fund lawsuit against the city, Judge Rick Moore ruled that the statues of Confederate generals Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson, which City Council unanimously voted to remove after August 12, are war memorials and protected by state code. Still to be decided: whether councilors have immunity and what issues the defendants can have decided in a jury trial.
Heyer memorial stomped
Over the weekend, a white supremacist in a purple T-shirt, cuffed jeans, and black boots posted a video to Instagram where he kicked over flowers at the longstanding memorial to Heather Heyer on Fourth Street. Activists have identified him as Dustin Dudley of Salem, and while police did not confirm his identity, they said the event is under investigation, and anyone with information should contact the police department.
UVA men’s basketball Coach Tony Bennett announced he’s received inquiries about the national champs visiting the White House, and with some of the team pursuing pro opportunities or moving on from the university, it would be “difficult if not impossible” to reunite the team. “We would have to respectfully decline an invitation.”
Rescue squad beef
The Board of Supervisors recently voted to dissolve the 45-year-old Scottsville Volunteer Rescue Squad because of a reported struggle to retain volunteers. But when the squad moved to donate its land to a nonprofit, the county wasn’t having it: On April 18, Albemarle officials filed a petition for a temporary injunction and requested an emergency order to prevent it from transferring its assets.
Denise Johnson will take on the role of supervisor of equity and inclusion in Charlottesville City Schools, a job created this year. Serving as the current executive director of City of Promise and a former school counselor, Johnson is a Charlottesville native and graduate of city schools.
$2 million bill
That’s what Kim Jong Un wants the United States to pay for the hospital care of UVA student Otto Warmbier, whom North Korean officials released from their country in a coma before he died. Korean government officials say President Donald Trump pledged to pay the bill before Warmbier’s release—but Trump says he didn’t and he’s not going to.
All eyes on Biden
From the moment rumors began to swirl that former vice president Joe Biden might announce his 2020 presidential run in Charlottesville, one thing became clear: Local activists did not want him here.
Biden ultimately decided to announce via video—UVA professor Siva Vaidhyanathan said “we stared him down” on Twitter—but the first word out of his mouth in that official campaign video was “Charlottesville.”
To no surprise, this prompted several local opinions, with many calling for Biden to donate to the Charlottesville Community Resilience Fund for August 12 victims, while former mayor Mike Signer joined the pro-Biden camp.
Tweeted Reverend Seth Wispelwey, “For how much #Charlottesville (and our traumatic footage) seems to be motivating and framing @JoeBiden’s candidacy, one might think we would’ve received a call or visit in the past 20 months.”
City Council candidate Michael Payne asked, “Will Biden show up for public housing in Charlottesville?…For the Black Student Union? For police accountability?”
Councilor Wes Bellamy said there’s no real way to get around the city being in the spotlight. “[I’d] much rather it be discussed and [have] national figures like the president talk about how they’re going to deal w/it.”
We won’t hold our breath.