The complaint in front of City Council February 4 was pretty extraordinary: “Chief [RaShall] Brackney came out of nowhere and literally attacked me that night.”
That it came from a member of the police Civilian Review Board was all the more astounding.
At a February 5 protest in front of the Charlottesville police station, Showing Up for Racial Justice members held signs that read, “Chief Brackney assaulted Katrina Turner.” A handful stood in the street and stopped rush hour Market Street traffic and demanded that Brackney be held accountable.
“I wasn’t physically attacked,” clarifies Turner. “I was verbally attacked.”
She describes a situation at a November 5 City Council meeting in which a girl had a panic attack outside the council chamber. When Turner left the room, “This little girl was laying on the ground gasping for air. I said I know CPR. I’m medically trained. I could help her.”
Turner says police officers stood aside and let her approach the girl, whom Turner wanted to turn on her side to help her breathing. “The only thing I could hear behind me was the chief of police yelling that I needed to leave,” says Turner.
Brackney would not listen to her explanation and continued to “aggressively get in my face yelling to leave the scene,” says Turner in the complaint she filed with police January 4. “Her last words to me were, ‘Mrs. Turner, you have been warned to leave the scene.’ I also thought I heard her tell me that I would be arrested if I did not leave the scene.”
Turner asked for body camera footage from the officers present in her complaint, and at the February 4 council meeting, she said no one had called her to get her sworn statement.
“She does not like me,” says Turner. “I understand but when I’m trying to help that child is not the time to come after me.”
Police spokesman Tyler Hawn declined C-VILLE’s request to speak to Brackney, saying the complaint is a personnel matter and she would not comment on it. He also says that none of the street blockers were arrested.
It’s no secret that Turner has issues with the Charlottesville Police Department, stemming from an April 30, 2016, arrest of her son after he called 911, and she’s filed several complaints about the handling of that.
Both Brackney and Turner are relatively new in their roles. Brackney was named chief in May, the first woman to hold the position. And Turner was named last summer to the newly formed Civilian Review Board, whose mission is to come up with bylaws for handling citizen complaints about the police.
Mayor Nikuyah Walker did not respond to a request for comment on the matter, but she did discuss it on “The Schilling Show” February 6. “From my understanding, the police chief yelled at [Turner] to move out of the way of a situation during an incident in the hallway during a council meeting,” she says.
Walker says if Brackney had physically assaulted Turner, “I’m sure we wouldn’t have gotten out of the building if that happened.”
The mayor says she talked to Interim City Manager Mike Murphy, and an external party will take a look at the situation “so it won’t be in our internal affairs department.”
Some of what she’s heard about Brackney from the activist community “hasn’t been very fair,” says Walker. “I’m hoping the community will give her the chance to do the work while understanding she’s a police chief in America.”
And if Brackney did something to harm Turner, council and the city manager should intervene, says Walker, “but if not, then it’s unfair.”
UVA law professor Josh Bowers is on the Civilian Review Board, and he doesn’t think the dispute between the police chief and a board member will interfere with the board’s job of creating bylaws.
“If Ms. Turner has a complaint against the department or an officer, that’s a personal matter, not a board matter,” he says. And because the board has not drawn up bylaws that would define what constitutes a conflict of interest, “I can’t speak to whether it’s a conflict of interest.”
Don Gathers was on the board until he resigned in January, and he says he doesn’t think Turner’s complaint against the chief will have any effect on the work of the board because “they’re dedicated people and they’ll go on with the work they’ve been tasked with.”
He did ask why the complaint was being described as an assault. “There’s some miscommunication. [Turner] never used that terminology.”
He says he hopes Turner and Brackney can work through their differences. “The community needs them both. We definitely need strong black leaders on both sides.”