Shannon Taylor, the Commonwealth’s Attorney for Henrico County announced on Monday that she is forming a Police Integrity and Compliance position for her office.
“I have been horrified seeing example after example of police excess and violence in the news every day,” said Taylor in a press release. “Although I am pleased that Henrico police patrol officers wear body-worn cameras and that we make every effort to view this footage, I have determined this is insufficient. My responsibility as Henrico Commonwealth’s Attorney is to keep citizens safe, and this is an important part of that.”
This announcement comes upon a month of social protests in response to Minneapolis Police killing George Floyd on Memorial Day. Protests in the Richmond area began shortly after Floyd’s death, but they have since evolved into a response to police brutality and the forceful approach police have displayed as an attempt to squash protests.
Taylor faced backlash from members of the community in September of 2019 when Henrico Police officers killed Gay Plack, a woman who was suffering a mental health crisis. Officers were asked to do a welfare check by a medical professional, however when they arrived at the home of Plack, she confronted them with an ax. Police officers shot Plack in the stomach and she later died at the hospital.
After calls from the community for Taylor to recuse herself from the case, she referred the case to two independent investigators which did receive initial praise from the ACLU of Virginia.
“We commend Ms. Taylor for asking two outside prosecutors to review the eventual results of her investigation, which she did not have to do.” said the ACLU at the time. “These actions are not enough, however, for full transparency or to assure the public that the investigation of this horrific incident was conducted in an impartial manner. The public trust is more important than any rationale that can be offered for not taking the actions listed above.”
Taylor ultimately did not recuse herself from the case, but promised to release the results from the independent investigations that were to be completed alongside the investigation by her office.
Taylor announced in November of 2019 that no charges would be filed against the officers involved in the shooting. “All three reports unanimously conclude there is no criminal liability on the part of the officers,” said Taylor at the time. “While, therefore, no charges will be filed, this was a tragic circumstance and I reiterate my call for a review of mental health policies at every level, to include stakeholders at both the state and local levels, to try and avoid future tragic incidents,”
Rumors have been swirling that Taylor will be running for Virginia Attorney’s General in 2021, those rumors have been all but confirmed in recent weeks.
In the email above, a “good friend” of Taylor writes: “I am asking you to join me and please contribute to her campaign now,” he wrote. “I strongly believe Shannon’s inclusive perspective, criminal justice expertise and overall vision will greatly benefit all Virginians, and our overall quality of life, as our next Attorney General.”
Taylor told the Henrico Citizen that she has made no official announcement as to if she will be running for Attorney General, but a website titled ‘shannontaylorva.com‘ is live and she has authorized an ‘Act Blue’ fundraising page where ‘Shannon Taylor For Virginia’ is the only campaign mentioned.
In addition to providing legal training to police officers, the person in this new position will be responsible for reviewing allegations of police misconduct and determining whether charges should be filed or referred to the police department’s internal affairs office. Qualifications listed in the job listing include a law school degree with at least 15 years of experience practicing criminal law.
“This new position in my office will ensure that Henricoans can feel confident that if any encounters with police seem wrong and not lawful, the Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office will intervene.” said Taylor in a press release.
She also announced that her office has created a new email hotline for citizens to report issues of police misconduct directly to her office. “To ensure the public has a readily available mechanism to report concerns, I am also initiating the ‘CitizenCA@henrico.us’ email account,” said Taylor. “I would encourage the public to contact us when they believe they have had an illegal encounter with police.”
In addition to these steps, Taylor is advocating for a push to move on implementing a citizen review board – an idea first introduced earlier this month by Varina Supervisor Tyrone Nelson.
On Monday, Henrico County sent out a statement requesting public input on the review board. “The Board of Supervisors has been receiving public input on establishing a civilian board that would provide oversight of the Police Division and is encouraging further community discussion, following recent police killings of Black Americans, including George Floyd in Minneapolis”
The county will be accepting comments from Henrico residents through the end of July at firstname.lastname@example.org.