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Former police officer calls for Christiansburg citizen- police review board

By Orlando Salinas, osalinas@wdbj7.com
Published On: Jul 16 2013 11:24:39 PM EDT
Updated On: Jul 16 2013 11:47:54 PM EDT

Inside the Christiansburg town hall Tuesday night, former police officer Lisa Gardner, walked up to the microphone and asked town council to consider creating a citizen police review board with subpoena powers

CHRISTIANSBURG, Va. -

Some residents made a special request at Tuesday's town council meeting in Christiansburg.

All eyes turned to a former police officer who said town leaders should think about making the police department much more transparent.

Inside the council chambers, former police officer Lisa Gardner walked up to the microphone and asked the full council to create a citizen police review board with subpoena powers.

"If we have nothing to hide', said Gardner, 'we have nothing to fear."

After checking with the American Civil Liberties Union, we found that in Virginia, there are no citizen-police review boards with subpoena powers. Those two words "subpoena powers", make all the difference.

Without full legal access to police records and evidence, ACLU of Virginia Director Claire Gastanaga said citizen advisory boards have no power.

"Our experience of citizen review boards and accountability boards are only effective when they're empowered to subpoena records and really look at the facts," Gastanaga said.

Eventually, four people walked to the podium and asked for the same thing, including Ray Lucas.

"I think the citizens review board with subpoena powers would be a great idea because it gives transparency to the citizens,'' Lucas said.

Over the past 2 years, the Christiansburg Police department said it's had 15 total investigations, 12 were internal affairs, three were citizen complaints.

The town, in a written statement, said it does not track the number of complaints or investigations that are sustained.

Leslie Sheppard, with her 6 year old daughter dancing around her feet said, "I think it matters. I think it can change if [law enforcement] wants to make the change. If they want to invest in the review board. It would be a nice checks and balances."

In the same statement, the town said if the town council saw it "prudent" to form a citizen advisory board, the town staff would comply.