Activist proposes citizens police review board: Why is this idea at all controversial?

waynesboroLocal activist Jennifer Lewis is asking members of Waynesboro City Council to create a citizens police review board.

This would seem to be an easy thing to do, and appropriate, given the times.

And constructive.

I’ve been advocating for constructive responses to the unrest nationally over the murder of George Floyd at the hands of a Minneapolis police officer.

Protests are great for getting attention, the looting and violence we’ve seen in cities across the country, detrimental to the cause.

Here’s something real. A citizens review board.

A bridge between the community and the police department.

I can’t imagine Mike Wilhelm, the police chief, objecting.

I didn’t imagine that Bobby Henderson, the vice mayor, and former police officer, would.

He did, and accused Lewis, a former candidate for Congress and the Virginia House of Delegates, of being an “opportunist trying to capitalize on an event that happened in a major metropolitan area.”

Lewis posted the response from Henderson, elected to City Council in 2018, to her Facebook page this morning.

You can view the letter – and responses from local residents – here.

The idea, incidentally, is hardly anything new or controversial.

Communities across the country have citizens review boards.

The concept seems a great way to demystify policing for community members, and to give police an opportunity to build rapport, support and trust.

From what I know of having worked with Wilhelm over the years, I’d imagine that he’d welcome the chance to have this kind of interaction with community members.

It boggles the mind that Henderson would object so strenuously to a common-sense proposal.

Story by Chris Graham


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