Calls made for police misconduct records from Charlottesville to D.C.

Published: Mar. 24, 2022 at 10:45 PM EDT
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CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (WVIR) - A Charlottesville attorney is calling on the city’s police department to make documents related to settled police misconduct claims public. This comes as one of Virginia’s U.S. Senators is pushing legislation that would do the same nationwide.

“They speak in very broad terms about transparency, and when it comes down to it, issues like this, they don’t support transparency,” said Attorney Jeffrey Fogel.

Fogel submitted a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request for the Charlottesville Police Department to “produce records concerning the settlement of claims of police misconduct” in 2020 and 2021. Right now, he says CPD keeps private the number of misconduct cases that have resulted in settlements as well as the dollar amount for which they were settled.

We reached out to CPD asking how many settlements they have reached in that two-year time period. “The Charlottesville Police Department does not provide comment regarding settlements,” they answered in an email.

“We should be able to have access to what kind of settlements it’s engaged in, and we can make judgments from those settlements as to whether or not the city’s handling them right,” Fogel said. “There’s no reason why these things are kept confidential, except bureaucrats and politicians never want to admit that anybody’s wrong. And even when they do, they don’t want us to see it.”

Making those records public is something Virginia Senator Tim Kaine, a Democrat, is trying to do on a federal level. In 2021, he sponsored the Cost of Police Misconduct Act. If it is passed and signed into law, federal law enforcement agencies would have to share data with the Department of Justice about “allegations of misconduct by federal law enforcement officers and amounts paid as judgments or settlements”.

In a statement, Kaine said: “Police misconduct causes significant harm and puts lives at risk, but settlements for misconduct are often shrouded in secrecy. We need that full transparency so that officers can be held accountable.”

Neither the city nor its police department had a comment on whether the records Fogel has requested will be made public.

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