The Virginia Beach City Council unanimously voted Wednesday to establish an independent citizen review board to investigate complaints against law enforcement officers.
A Citizens Review Panel Task Force created by the city council recommended the establishment of an oversight body for the city following more than a dozen meetings and almost 800 hours of volunteer service.
The review board will be comprised of 11 members with subpoena power and two non-voting members with law enforcement experience. A task force will recommend how the board operates.
In an agenda item from Wednesday's meeting, the review board's duties were described as follows:
- To receive, investigate, and issue findings on complaints from civilians regarding the conduct of sworn members of the Police Department;
- To investigate and issue findings on incidents, including the use of force by a law- enforcement officer that results in the death of, or serious injury to, any person held in custody, serious abuse of authority or misconduct, allegedly discriminatory stops, and other incidents regarding the conduct of sworn members of the Department ( and for purposes of this section, " serious injury" shall be defined as " bodily injury that involves substantial risk of death, extreme physical pain, protracted and obvious disfigurement, or protracted loss or impairment of the function of a bodily member, organ, or mental faculty");
- To hold hearings and, if after making a good faith effort to obtain, voluntarily, the attendance of witnesses and the production of books, papers, and other evidence necessary to perform its duties, the board may apply to the circuit court for a subpoena compelling the attendance of such witness or the production of such books, papers, and other evidence, and the court may, upon good cause shown, cause the subpoena to be issued; provided, however, that any person so subpoenaed may apply to the court that issued such subpoena to quash it;
- To investigate policies, practices, and procedures of the Department and to make recommendations regarding changes to such policies, practices, and procedures. In response to such recommendations, the Department shall create a written record, made available to the public, in cases in which the Department declines to implement such changes;
- To review any investigations conducted internally by the Department and to issue findings regarding the accuracy, completeness, and impartiality of such investigations;
- To request reports of the annual expenditures of the Department and to make budgetary recommendations to the City Council concerning future appropriations;
- To make public reports on the board's activities, including investigations, hearings, findings, recommendations, determinations, and oversight activities; and
- To undertake any other duties as reasonably necessary for the board to effectuate its lawful purpose as set forth in this section.
The decision comes as the Virginia State Police investigates Donovon Lynch's death. Lynch was shot by a Virginia Beach Police officer at the Oceanfront in March 2021.
Though the decision to establish a review board was made independently of Lynch's case, his father Wayne Lynch was in the council chambers when the decision was made Wednesday.