Charlottesville City Council, Police Face Heavy Criticism from Public After Report
Monday night, dozens of people packed inside Charlottesville City Hall to sound off on an independent review into white supremacy events this summer.
CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (WVIR) - Monday night, dozens of people packed inside Charlottesville City Hall to sound off on an independent review into white supremacy events this summer. City Councilors got an earful during public comment period from people who say council, police, and city government failed them.
Former U.S. Attorney Tim Heaphy gave his formal presentation to council talking about what went wrong in May, July and August when white nationalists and supremacists came to Charlottesville. His investigation found a lack of planning, poor communication, and a passive response by law enforcement to the chaos that unfolded at the Aug. 12 "Unite the Right" rally. Heaphy said police did not know what to expect, even with a very clear threat.
“We talked to a lot of police officers who said 'I had no idea what to expect, I wish I knew what we were supposed to do.' There's body camera footage where you have officers turning to each other and say, 'do you know what we are supposed to do?'” Heaphy said.
City Councilors were left with a lot of questions.
“Can we begin to cancel permits or can we blatantly say well listen, you're not welcome here, your group of people killed someone, is there anything that we can do?” Vice Mayor Wes Bellamy said.
Members of the the public say the report did not wash blood off Council’s hands. Speakers also said police should not have weapons, and some asked for more time before council makes a decision on how to move forward.
“The review is full of errors and omissions and is an insult to the dead, the wounded, and the community. Accountability is long overdue and Jones, Thomas, and the majors must go,” Dave Ghamandi who lives in Charlottesville said. 'We need to defund the police department."
"If this City Council is committed to developing a truly equitable and just response to the findings of the Heaphy report. That must allow the community more time in greater participation before forging a path of action," commenter Ms. Bloom said.
A lot of councilors apologized to the public and most of the responses were that the apologies are too late.
Heaphy recommended a stadium approach for future violent events that would lay out clear points of entry for groups at and create a unified operational plan for law enforcement.
City Manager Maurice Jones gave his recommendations, including that law personnel have large event training and de-escalation training, a new emergency management team is being formed, and working to improve intelligence gathering.