Shirley Stewart of the Fairfax NAACP says the police department needs a civilian review board.
By Michael Pope
Frustrated by what they describe as a lack of transparency in the Fairfax Police Department, a group of citizen activists has joined forces to start conducting their own investigations of official misconduct.
Calling itself the Citizens Coalition for Police Accountability, the group has elected a board of directors and appointed an executive director. Inspired by a recent incident in which a Fairfax police officer shot and killed an unarmed motorist, the coalition hopes to persuade the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors to appoint a citizen board. Until that happens, says executive director Nicholas Beltrante, his organizations will start taking complaints from people who say they’ve been mistreated.
“We do hope to begin receiving complaints within the very near future, I would think within the next 30 to 60 days,” says Beltrante.
Several groups have already signed onto the effort, including the American Civil Liberties Union, the National Police Accountability Project and the National Association for Civilian Oversight of Law Enforcement. Shirley Stewart of the Fairfax NAACP says her organization supports the effort because the police department can’t be trusted to investigate their own wrongdoings.
“The problem is that there’s a lot of police misconduct in Fairfax County, and it’s getting swept under the rugs,” says Stewart.
The coalition plans to start submitting public-records request for information. If the police department denies access to the information, Beltrante says the coalition is prepared to take legal action to force more transparency.