The U.S. Attorney’s office in Western Virginia has rolled out a new online portal to make it easier for local residents to report civil rights violations.
There’s a sense on the part of some folks in Augusta County that this may be a kick in the shins at the county sheriff, Donald Smith, who has resisted efforts to outfit his deputies with body cameras in a move that has been criticized by local civil rights leaders.
We reached out to the U.S. Attorney’s office to find out more about its new civil rights portal, and the answer we got back: no, this isn’t about any one locality in our part of the state.
“There are several U.S. Attorney offices throughout the country who have implemented very similar pages,” said Brian McGinn, the spokesperson for the U.S. Attorney’s office for the Western District of Virginia, which is based in Charlottesville.
A press release issued by the office last week touted the new online portal as being “a one-stop shop where people may learn about their federal civil rights and report if they believe their rights have been violated.”
“So often, when someone feels they have been the victim of discrimination or their civil rights have otherwise been violated, they are unsure of what to do. Who do they turn to? Do they contact the local police? The FBI? And if so, what number do they call?” U.S. Attorney Christopher R. Kavanaugh said in the release.
“Our hope is that this online portal will educate the public about their individual civil rights, how to safeguard them, and who to contact if they believe their rights have been violated in the 52 counties and 17 cities that comprise the Western District of Virginia,” Kavanaugh said.
The release noted that Kavanaugh has appointed two full-time assistant U.S. attorneys to his civil rights team, and he is hiring a third to lead the district’s civil enforcement unit through civil litigation.
Per McGinn, all U.S. Attorney’s offices have staff working on civil rights matters.
“Some allow those issues to come in organically. Some, like we have done here, put in place a mechanism that makes it a bit easier for folks who feel they may have had their rights violated to reach out to the DOJ,” McGinn said.
“When someone feels their rights have been violated, finding the right person to speak to, can be difficult. We hope this online portal makes the first step in the process a bit easier,” McGinn said.
So, nothing to see here, if you were thinking there was more to this tidbit than meets the eye.