Norfolk Finds No Easy Answers in Police Shootings

In May 2013, a police officer shot and killed Joshua Johnson at the Wells Fargo in Ghent. Police said Johnson tried to back his car into an officer.

This June, a Norfolk police officer shot and killed David Latham, who was armed with a knife. Latham’s family says he was retreating into his house when he was shot.

Norfolk’s Commonwealth’s Attorney, Greg Underwood, said the use of fatal force against Johnson was justified. The use of force against Latham remains under review.

Councilman Andy Protogyrou has suggested creating a citizens’ panel to review allegations of police misconduct as a way to bolster public confidence. A review panel would consider whether officers had followed their department’s policies and procedures, Protogyrou said. Questions of criminal conduct in use-of-force cases would still be reviewed by a grand jury.

Still, a review panel could help give residents confidence that their appeals are being heard, Protogyrou said.

“I’m not saying that because I’m not satisfied with the system,” he said. “I want citizens to understand people are doing the best humanly possible.”

Nationwide, more than 200 civilian oversight groups with various structures and authority act as a check on the criminal justice system.

“Most major cities have some form of oversight,” Brian Buchner (President of the National Association for Civilian Oversight of Law Enforcement and a special investigator with the Los Angeles Board of Police Commissioners) said. “It’s a way of reassuring the community… so they can regain trust where there isn’t any.”

Read the full article here.