What: Press conference on six needed improvements in criminal justice in Suffolk
When: Wednesday, June 16 at 7–9 p.m.
Where: Suffolk City Council (442 West Washington St., Suffolk, VA 23434)
Suffolk, Va. — Virginia Organizing members and community allies will hold a press conference at the Suffolk City Council on June 16 at 7 p.m. Community leaders will share their stories about the need for police and criminal justice reform in Suffolk and call for the creation of a Civilian Review Board (CRB), based on the model of the Charlottesville CRB.
At the City Council meeting, the Suffolk Chapter of Virginia Organizing will present a list of six changes that they believe will improve public trust:
- Hire a permanent police chief
- Develop a civilian review board that is diverse and inclusive with no law enforcement
- Hire an independent consulting firm to do a summary of the surveys that were done in the communities in reference to Suffolk policing and practices.
- Start to train officers to de-escalate situations where there are no firearms or other weapons.
- Have random psychological evaluations for police officers
- Distribute a random questionnaire asking officers if they have racist thoughts about harming African Americans and brown people and people of different ethnic backgrounds.
“In the wake of George Floyd’s death and all of the shooting of unarmed African Americans, there’s a need for more police transparency and more police accountability,” said Imhotep Muhammad, a member of the Suffolk Chapter of Virginia Organizing. “It seems that police officers are disregarding human rights at all levels. African Americans have a target on our backs.”
Tion Ashby, another Suffolk resident, chapter member, and African American, agrees.
“We all seen the incident with the army lieutenant that got pepper sprayed in a traffic stop by Windsor police. The army lieutenant was in uniform and was still dehumanized by Windsor police. I look like the army lieutenant. We both are people of color. I don’t want this to happen to any one else of color. That’s why we need a permanent police chief and we need an effective CRB.
“We reached out to Mayor Duman and vice Mayor Bennett via calls and emails. We did not receive any returned calls or emails. I look forward to speaking with each city council member about their views of criminal and police reform for the future.
“Virginia Organizing has worked on other issues and city council has gotten on top of them. I want to thank Mayor Duman, Vice Mayor Bennett, and city council members for fixing an environmental injustice on Wilson Street and improving Suffolk transit. I know the mayor and vice mayor and city council want to get in front of criminal and police reform and make policing better in Suffolk,” Ashby said.
Members of the chapter will explain that they have studied and researched about developing a CRB. Through this process, they have identified the following elements as critical to successful oversight: (1) the need for the CRB to have independent authority to review any and all complaints about police misconduct; (2) the need for a CRB with independent authority to conduct a parallel investigation into a complaint, at least, under limited circumstances; (3) the need for a CRB with independent authority to access fully relevant Suffolk Police Department documents and data; (4) the need for professional, experienced support staff and an appropriate corresponding budget (they recommend 1% of the CPD’s budget); and (5) the need for public engagement and public reporting. They say that without these critical elements, the CRB would risk creating more harm for the community, rather than less.
To interview a spokesperson about this work, contact Tony Jones at 757-660-6080 or email@example.com.