Six months into its nine-month mission, the Charlottesville Police Civilian Review Board could seek another year to come up with bylaws for a future iteration of the board. And after having lost two members since its inception last year, a law enforcement group wants a third member to be removed.
At its meeting Tuesday, the panel read a letter to the city from Denise Lunsford, the attorney for the Southern States Police Benevolent Association, that referenced comments made by board member Katrina Turner during a City Council meeting earlier this month.
Turner told the council that her son was pulled over for running a stop sign. She said that once the officer ran his name through the system, he summoned backup.
Turner said she told the officers she was a CRB member. At the council meeting, she wondered out loud if that had led to her son getting off with a warning.
Lunsford’s letter says the actions Turner described are an inappropriate use of her position. It also references other complaints and actions by Turner without naming anything specifically.
Lunsford’s letter asks that her actions be reviewed by City Attorney John Blair and Commonwealth’s Attorney Joe Platania.
Turner responded to the letter immediately and questioned Lunsford, who was in attendance. She said the officer already had written a ticket before she arrived.
“You don’t even really know what you’re talking about right now,” Turner said. “I was not even out there then. I was not called until the backup had already arrived and the ticket was already written.”
Lunsford declined to comment on the letter, saying it’s “simply not appropriate.”
“If I were representing you, I would advise you to stop talking and talk to an attorney,” Lunsford told Turner.
The association, via Lunsford, previously has weighed in on the board’s membership. Before it was formed, Lunsford sent a letter to the council urging the city to focus on “relationship-building.”
Controversy over the board’s membership started quickly after local attorney Jeff Fogel wasn’t appointed despite community support.
During public comment Tuesday, Harold Folley of the People’s Coalition, chastised Lunsford’s involvement.
“You don’t want this to happen, but the citizens of Charlottesville want this to happen,” Folley said. “If you don’t want to help, you need to get out of the way.”
Board member Gloria Beard reiterated Folley’s comments, shaking her head and saying, “People in this town do not want this to happen.”
In other business, the board discussed requesting a year extension on its mission to create bylaws for future boards, which are due May 4.
The board has been mired in controversy since forming in August.
Members have continued to raise concerns about a lack of transparency from the Charlottesville Police Department, particularly regarding stop-and-frisk data.
The CRB has sought data from the last seven years to address specific community problems with policing, such as excessive use of force, civilian complaints and stop-and-frisk.
In November, another issue arose after the board approved the bylaws it would use to create the bylaws for future boards. The City Council decided it would not sign off on the initial bylaws. Supporters said approval of the bylaws would have compelled CPD to provide the stop-and-frisk information.
The board later said it couldn’t complete its mission without the data, but members continued to discuss the pros and cons of different models for future iterations of the CRB.
“This is February. We’re in the middle of February,” said board member Rosia Parker. “We’re just learning.”
Amidst all of those issues, Brackney said in December that a “vocal and biased” CRB is one of the reasons the department is down 30 officers in what she has called a “mass exodus.”
Parker said Brackney owes the board an apology and the department needs to rebuild its relationship.
“She needs to stop bashing us,” Parker said. “If she don’t want to work with us, that’s not on us.”
Parker said she met with Interim City Manager Mike Murphy on Tuesday to discuss the board and that he said an extension could be requested.
Parker and Turner also argued with a member of the Police Benevolent Association about working with the department and building relationships with the community.
The board also announced that Brackney will attend the board’s regular meeting on March 12 to go over the department’s complaint and internal affairs investigation process.
Board member Josh Bowers was absent. Mayor Nikuyah Walker was present but didn’t comment during the meeting.
Don Gathers resigned from the CRB in January and Juan Gonzalez stepped down from the board last fall.