Home 2019 Elections Cville Launches Independent Review; Leaked Memo from City Council to City Manager

Cville Launches Independent Review; Leaked Memo from City Council to City Manager


The following “full scope and terms of the independent review we are launching” is from Charlottesville Mayor Mike Signer. Also see below this for a leaked memo (scoop by Graham Moomaw of the RTD) from the Charlottesville City Council to City Manager Maurice Jones. “Interesting times,” in the Chinese curse sense, for Charlottesville these days…

Here are the terms of the independent review we have announced with former U.S. Attorney Tim Heaphy.

I strongly support this effort for the sake of a grieving public looking for answers, for accountability, and for the institution of best practices going forward.

I am very glad we are moving ahead quickly with it, though please note that Mr. Heaphy has estimated that the required due diligence and care will require approximately 90 days. That may be more time than many would like, but I think it’s more important that we do this right than we do it in a rush.

Here’s the agreement:

1. Scope of review – The City has commissioned a review of its response to all the protest events that have occurred in Charlottesville this summer. The review will focus on the June torchlight, nighttime protest at the Lee Statue, the July KKK demonstration, and the large August 12 event. While the August 12 protest was the largest and most complicated, all three protests raised challenges and should be considered cohesively. We will focus on how various city entities prepared for and responded to those events, not simply focus on law enforcement. The review will consider the permitting process, communications with protesters and the general public, compliance with applicable laws and regulations, inter-agency coordination, and measures taken by police and other agencies to protect public safety. A review of the law enforcement response would be incomplete if divorced from the broader context of events. Accordingly, this independent evaluation will be a fulsome review of the city’s overall response to these complicated and fast-moving events.

2. Process – An independent review will be thorough and objective. We will begin by generating a list of stakeholders whose views will be gathered and arranging to speak with those groups and individuals. We will talk with law enforcement leaders and line officers about training, planning for the protest events, and execution of those plans. We will speak with other agency officials about the degree of coordination involved in the response. We will talk with city leaders and other decision makers involved in the permitting process, communications with protesters and the public, and evaluating compliance with law. Importantly, we should solicit the perspective of protesters, counter-protesters, and onlookers at each event. We will also gather as much video evidence and documents as possible, and compare that potentially voluminous material to the witness accounts we gather.

It will be important for everyone with relevant information to feel heard in this process. Public confidence in the findings of the review depend on a comprehensive process with ample opportunity for people to provide their perspective. We really can’t cut corners with this review. It will be imperative that all information be sifted and evaluated.

3. Report – At the end of the independent evaluation, we will prepare and present a thorough report in two sections. The first would be a comprehensive factual summary and legal analysis of relevant events. We will construct a timeline and narrative of every significant event, from permitting to planning to the protests themselves to the aftermath. We will incorporate multiple perspectives and attempt to produce a detailed accounting of what occurred at these events. We will also survey all applicable laws and regulations that were considered and implicated and examine compliance with those laws and regulations. Second, we will produce a list of recommendations for improved handling of future events. We will specifically examine compliance with law and how the City should ensure that future events are managed in a manner consistent with existing federal, state and local statutes and regulations. We may suggest changes to those statutes and regulations that will facilitate improved response to similar protest events. Additional recommendations will involve improved processes, tactics, strategies, and other steps that can be taken by the City unilaterally. The recommendations will directly address issues identified in the factual findings and legal analysis.

In generating a list of recommendations, we will involve experts with experience dealing with large protest events. For example, it will be important to gather the views of law enforcement professionals who might have specific advice about tactical considerations. We should involve CPD and other law enforcement officials in the identification of those experts. Giving the Chief and our local officials a voice in identifying the experts will facilitate candor with those experts and help establish the credibility of their advice with the law enforcement personnel who will ultimately implement the recommendations. We might also consider the perspective of experts in crisis communications, particularly for local governments. As above, local officials should have a voice in which experts are consulted.

The final report will be presented in a public forum. I believe the written report should be a public document, available to all who seek to learn more about the protest events. I suggest the findings and recommendations in that report should also be presented to Council and the public in an open meeting. While the independent evaluation will be useful to city officials in preparing for future events, it also has the potential to inform members of our community. An honest assessment of the protest events will reinforce public confidence in law enforcement and other components of city government. The City’s efforts to learn from these events is crucial to the community’s trust in their elected officials, the officers sworn to protect them, and our government’s ability to keep them safe.

4. Timeframe – It is imperative that the independent evaluation be commenced as soon as possible and be complete within a relatively short period of time. The acts of violence and loss of life we have experienced generated an inordinate amount of stress and pain in our community and around the world. Our community will not be able to heal until we collectively understand the context of the events. Moreover, there may be additional protest events. Indeed, organizers of the prior events have vowed to return to Charlottesville. To prepare for those future protests, the City should move quickly to gather the relevant facts and immediately incorporate them into future plans. For these and many other reasons, it is imperative that we move quickly to conduct this independent review. We believe it will take a minimum of 90 days but will have a more accurate understanding of timing in the next few weeks.

5. Coordination – To meet our deadline and produce a thorough report in 2017, we will need the cooperation of various other agencies. We will need access to people, documents and other information from multiple law enforcement and other agencies. Many of these agencies may be doing their own investigations of various aspects of these events. It is imperative that our review not conflict with any other investigations. One of Mr. Heaphy’s primary jobs leading this independent evaluation will be coordinating with other agencies. We will work hard to forge cooperative relationships with these entities, to work closely with them to gather information relevant to various inquiries. Without a single contact for the City, we run the risk of disconnected efforts and duplicative endeavors. The independent evaluator should be the City’s point of contact with state and local prosecutors, state agencies, public commissions, or other entities tasked with looking into these events.

Signer Memo by Lowell Feld on Scribd


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