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Council to signal support for expanded CRB power, police reform measures
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Council to signal support for expanded CRB power, police reform measures

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March to defund police

Protest organizers chant at a parked police car during a Defund the Police Block Party and Noise Demo in Charlottesville on June 13.

Charlottesville City Council is set to signal its support for expanded civilian oversight of police.

The council will consider a resolution at its meeting Monday supporting proposed General Assembly legislation related to police review boards and take up other measures in the wake of protests around police brutality.

The council has been at odds with the city’s Police Civilian Review Board, which is still in its infancy.

At its first meeting, the CRB voted to revert its bylaws and ordinance to the structure presented by an initial panel but not adopted by a previous council.

However, the council has indicated that it will take no action on the CRB's wishes before the General Assembly holds a special session, to include matters of policing, in August.

The legislature is set to consider proposals by the Legislative Black Caucus focused on police accountability during the special session that begins Aug. 12 and could last for weeks.

The proposals would require all police departments in Virginia to have a corresponding civilian review board with subpoena power. Subpoena power was not included in the original or current iteration of the Charlottesville CRB’s bylaws.

The legislation also would limit the use of sovereign immunity, a state law that shields individual police officers and their governing bodies from civil liability for violations of constitutional rights.

Another resolution on Monday's agenda would support a call for the state to declare racism a public health crisis, which has been proposed by several legislators.

The council also will consider establishing Juneteenth as a city holiday. Juneteenth commemorates when slaves last learned of the 1863 Emancipation Proclamation.

The last slaves were informed of the proclamation following the end of the war on June 19, 1865, by Union Maj. Gen. Gordon Granger in Galveston, Texas. The former slaves immediately took to the streets to celebrate, starting the tradition.

Last year, Charlottesville officials made Liberation and Freedom Day a city holiday. The celebration hearkens back to March 3, 1865, when Union troops under Gen. Philip Sheridan arrived in the area under orders to destroy the Virginia Central railroad line, cutting off Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee’s supply line to the Shenandoah Valley.

Sheridan occupied the city until March 6 and, during that time, many slaves used the occupation to free themselves.

The council also will consider an ordinance that prohibits carrying firearms in city buildings, parks, recreational or community centers or on public streets.

The city has been seeking the authority to implement such measures, but localities did not have that power until it was approved by the General Assembly in its most recent session.

Violation of the ordinance would be a Class 1 misdemeanor, which carries a sentence of up to a year in jail and a fine as high as $2,500.

The council also will consider an ordinance that would prohibit the Charlottesville Police Department from acquiring weapons from the military and taking military or “warrior” training.

Calls to defund police departments and cut down on the use of military weapons have been widespread in the two months since George Floyd was killed by police in Minneapolis.

According to a staff report, the department doesn’t acquire weapons from the military or take such training.

The City Council meets at 6:30 p.m. Monday. To register to participate, visit charlottesville.gov/zoom.

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City hall reporter

Nolan Stout is a reporter for The Daily Progress. Contact him at (434) 978-7274, nstout@dailyprogress.com, or @nstoutDP on Twitter and Facebook.

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