RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC)– A Richmond task force is working to create a civilian review board for police oversight after unrest last summer following the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis. The task force is urging other community members in the metro area to join the conversation.

Last summer, Richmond City Council approved an ordinance that would create a task force to establish the Civilian Review Board. The formation of the task force was then announced by Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney when he outlined his plans for “reimagining public safety.”

The task force met virtually for the first time on Monday, March 15, followed by the group’s second meeting on Monday, March 22. Members of the new task force include Virginia educators, activists, community health workers and others.

Erik Nielson is a professor of Liberal Arts at the University of Richmond and is a RVA task force member. Nielson has a background in African-American literature, music, culture and the criminal justice system.

Nielson believes the criminal justice system can be dysfunctional at times and needed to have a seat at the table.

“To me that’s the goal of my scholarship and my research is to actually have impact,” said Nielson.

Following the announcement of the task force, the University of Richmond professor first reached out to his councilmember in his district, Andreas Addison, who represents the city’s first district. He was then voted on to the force by City Council. Now, Nielson joins other members of the Richmond community that are currently discussing what a civilian review board would look like.

“Communities across the country should have something like this. I think trust between communities and the police have eroded in a number of communities, so I see the formation of a civilian review board as a mechanism to help restore both transparency and trust between the community and its police force,” said Nielson.

In the first two meetings, RVA task force members discussed their priorities moving forward.

First will be the budget allocation for the upcoming fiscal year. Members are working on getting numbers and projections to present to City Council. The task force is also discussing retroactivity. Members are weighing the decision on whether or not to allow the civilian review board to take complaints from before the date it was founded and formed, in March of this year. The task force is also discussing a variety of mechanisms for community outreach. They’re hoping to make sure that the civilian review board is representing the voices of all of Richmond and reflects the community.

According to Nielson, the board is hoping to find ways for community members to provide feedback in future meetings, while focusing on a potential name, and powers the civilian review board would have.

The public is invited to attend the RVA task force’s next meeting which will be held on Wednesday, March 31 at 6 p.m. The meeting is expected to center around the budget.

Zoom meeting link: