Inspired by a recent police shooting, Nicholas Beltrante is trying to create a citizen review board for the Fairfax County Police Department.
By Michael Pope
Nicholas Beltrante isn't impressed with how the Fairfax County Police Department is handling itself. Since an officer shot and killed an unarmed man last November, he says the agency has been hiding facts and documents.
"Unfortunately, when the police conduct their investigation, we have no knowledge of what they did or what decision they made or why they made that particular decision," he says.
That's why Beltrante says its time to create a citizen review board. A spokesman for the Fairfax Coalition of Police says his organization would be likely to oppose the creation of a citizen review board, deeming it unnecessary. But Kent Willis of the Virginia American Civil Liberties Union says the existing choices for lodging a complaint just aren't good enough.
"Filing a lawsuit is expensive and it's complicated and most people simply can't afford to do it," says Willis. "The other option that citizens have is to file a complaint with the police themselves, and of course that's the fox guarding the hen house."
Over the last 20 years, communities across America have drafted civilians to help provide a check on the power of police.
"No matter how good those internal investigators are, there will always be a perception among many people in the community that it is the police investigating the police," says Philip Eure, the director of the National Association for Civilian Oversight of Law Enforcement. "That will undermine confidence in the police."
Beltrante hopes to make a formal presentation to the Fairfax Board of Supervisors later this year.