Charlottesville appoints independent board to assess police’s response to Unite the Right rally.

Charlottesville Orders Review of Police and City Manager Response During Protests

Charlottesville Orders Review of Police and City Manager Response During Protests

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Aug. 24 2017 3:54 PM

Charlottesville Orders Review of Police and City Manager Response During Protests

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The Virginia State Police block a street during protests in Charlottesville, Virginia, on Aug. 12.

Paul J. Richards/AFP/Getty Images

Charlottesville’s government will establish an independent review board to assess the city’s preparation and response to the Aug. 12 Unite the Right rally—a response generally understood to have been inadequate. After a closed session on Thursday, City Councilor Kathy Galvin said the board would be announced within a day, but no other details were made immediately available.*

Several people had speculated on social media that the meeting could result in the firing of either City Manager Maurice Jones or Police Chief Al Thomas. The idea was fueled by a Facebook post by Charlottesville Mayor Mike Signer about an hour before the meeting was to begin. Signer wrote:

The events on August 12 have raised serious questions about the City’s handling of security, communications, and governance. These are questions Council can and should ask as the ultimate authority over the City Manager in our form of government, and we are starting that process today.
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Under the city’s charter, the mayor has no individual authority to make operational decisions, nor does the City Council. That’s left up to City Manager Maurice Jones.

In his Facebook post, Signer wrote that on Aug. 12, Thomas had told him to “stay out of my way,” and that he had not been not allowed in the city’s command center. Instead he watched from the emergency operations center run by first responders.

On Thursday, Signer and other councilors said they could not say much about the closed council meeting, because personnel matters were involved. When asked if he had confidence in Thomas and Jones, Signer said yes.

“I have confidence they will handle challenges,” he said. “We're confident in our government and we have a police force, 130 strong, and we are one of the best cities in the world.”

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Meanwhile, a community town hall scheduled for Thursday has been postponed until Sunday. The Daily Progress is reporting that the Charlottesville Police Department has a mandatory meeting for all officers and staff Friday, though there are no details on what the topic will be.

Vice Mayor Wes Bellamy echoed Signer’s positive tone.

“We're not looking to place blame on anyone,” Bellamy said, later adding “I think we all agree that there were some mistakes that were made and there is room for improvement on all fronts."

When asked to specify what those mistakes were, Bellamy said he had to move on to another meeting.

*Correction, Aug. 25, 2017: This post originally misstated the city council ordered the review in its Thursday meeting. The review had been previously scheduled.

Sean Tubbs is senior reporter for Charlottesville Tomorrow, a nonprofit news organization that covers land use, transportation, education, and innovation.