The Henrico County Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office will soon add a deputy prosecutor in charge of overseeing complaints against police officers.
Shannon Taylor, the county’s elected prosecutor, announced the creation of the position Monday after receiving permission from the county manager to unfreeze a vacant position in her office.
In an interview after the announcement, Taylor said she proposed the idea after considering how her team can contribute to improving police accountability in response to the nationwide protests against racial injustice and police brutality.
“I would hope that it gives the community a sense of my level of dedication to the changes that will be happening,” said Taylor, who is exploring a run for attorney general of Virginia next year.
“I recognize police have a role to play in public safety but they must do that in a lawful, respectful manner, without regard to the race, sex, age or immigration status of anyone involved,” she said in the news release announcing the new position in her office.
A job description attached to Monday’s release says the new deputy commonwealth’s attorney for police integrity and compliance will review allegations of police misconduct and determine whether charges should be filed or referred to the police department’s internal affairs office.
Also, the deputy would provide legal training to the police department’s officers.
Qualified candidates for the position, according to the job description, must have a law school degree and at least 15 years of experience practicing criminal law. Taylor said the annual salary for the new attorney would range from $102,828 to $189,157.
While the job has yet to be filled, Taylor’s office has created an email account (CitizenCA@henrico.us) where people can file complaints against officers.
Taylor said those complaints will be thoroughly investigated and considered public information.
The police department currently has its own complaint intake process through its internal affairs division. But Taylor said those investigators have no obligation to contact her office about the complaints.
Taylor said citizens have always been able to direct concerns to her office. On Monday, she was unsure how many complaints her office has received about police misconduct.
“Presumably, this new position will be able to monitor these numbers,” she said.
Out of 122 complaints filed to the police department in 2019, investigators determined that 89 of them were unjustified, according to data on the county’s website.
It’s unclear from the records online what disciplinary measures were taken for the 28 complaints that were sustained or justified last year. (Five cases were still pending at the end of 2019.)
In response to a request for comment, Henrico Police Chief Humberto Cardounel, who recently announced his plans to retire this summer, said he has not talked to Taylor about the new deputy prosecutor position, according to department spokesman Matt Pecka. Cardounel did not comment any further, Pecka said.
Taylor’s announcement of the new position comes after a monthlong series of protests that have been largely concentrated in Richmond but have spilled over into the surrounding suburban counties.
In response to the amplified calls for police accountability and reform, Henrico officials are reviewing the possible creation of a civilian review board that would oversee the police department.
Tyrone Nelson, who represents the majority-Black Varina District on the county’s Board of Supervisors, initially proposed the idea in an email to his colleagues earlier this month.
While the exact details of who will serve on the civilian review board and what authority it would have remain subject to debate, Taylor said the new deputy prosecutor could be an important liaison.
Nelson has said he would prefer the civilian review board to not include any police officials in order to keep it independent, but was unsure Monday whether the board should have anyone from the prosecutor’s office.
“I haven’t talked to her about it, but I would not want any spaces taken up on the review board that would minimize Henrico County citizens being on it,” he said.
The county news release said the Board of Supervisors is not expected to act on the creation of a civilian review board until after the General Assembly reconvenes in August for a special session in which statewide police reforms will be discussed.