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Former Police Among Civilian Review Task Force Nominees

richmond city hall building
FILE PHOTO: Richmond City Hall. (Craig Carper/VPM)

This week, Richmond City Council’s Public Safety Committee nominated six people to a task force working to establish a civilian review board for police misconduct. 

The slate of names drew immediate criticism from police reform advocates for the inclusion of two former law enforcement officers. Council Member Kim Gray nominated John Dixon III, a former Petersburg police chief, and Council Member Reva Trammell nominated Charlene Hinton, who worked for police departments in Petersburg and Richmond. The nine-member task force will look at best practices for creating a civilian review board, which will be expected to investigate allegations of excessive use of force and other police misconduct in Richmond.

Following the Public Safety Committee meeting, 8th District Council Member Mike Jones told VPM he would suggest alternatives to Dixon and Hinton at the next City Council meeting. Jones said, if their nominations are approved, he thinks it could hurt the public trust that the board is supposed to help rebuild.

“If we are setting up a body that is going to do oversight of the police, I don’t know that we should have members of law enforcement, past or present, a part of that task force,” Jones said. “That gives individuals who are not trusting of the police for their own reasons a moment of pause.”

Richmond City Council is expected to take a final vote on the nominations on November 9th. 

Council Member Kim Gray has defended her choice to nominate Dixon. She says she thinks it’s important to have the perspective of former law enforcement officers on the task force.

“I think there’s a lot to be understood about the job, what it entails, the training and technology,” Gray said. “I think it’s important to have all perspectives at the table to be able to discuss these things. I don’t think [Dixon] is the kind of person who would defend things that aren’t right.”

Dixon, who served as the head of the Petersburg Bureau of Police from 2007 to 2016, was fired by the city manager in 2016. He was terminated on what the Richmond Times-Dispatch described as “the heels of months of scrutiny related to allegations of corruption within the department.” Dironna Moore Belton, the acting city manager at the time, told reporters Dixon’s firing was unrelated to the corruption allegations.

Dixon is also the president of the Richmond Crusade for Voters, a civic organization that recently endorsed Gray and initially voted to endorse Trammell, but ended up backing her opponent Amy Wentz. Gray denies that the endorsement played any part in her decision on who to nominate.

Hinton has been a legal services analyst for the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles since 2016, according to her LinkedIn page. She previously served as a Chief of Staff for Petersburg Police and as a lieutenant in the Richmond Police Department.

Chelsea Higgs Wise, a local policing reform activist, echoed the concerns of Jones in appointing former law enforcement officers to the task force.

“Throughout the last few months, commissions and task forces have been set up that have law enforcement or prosecutors on them,” she said. “For us to have progress and true change it’s important for our elected officials to hear that we need a space that is separate from law enforcement.”

Higgs Wise also pointed out that Dixon and Hinton would be barred from serving on the civilian review board in Richmond under the enabling legislation passed by the General Assembly earlier this year. That statute prohibits anyone who previously served as a law enforcement officer within a locality from being on that locality’s board.

The slate of six nominees from the Public Safety Committee meeting would fill the six at-large resident seats on the task force. Three other positions are reserved for someone with a disability, a public housing resident and a person 18 years old or younger.

The full list of nominations to Richmond’s Task Force for the Establishment of a Civilian Review Board are:

  • Angela Fontaine, a career consultant with experience in social work
  • John Gerner, leisure industry consultant and former vice-chair of the Navy Hill Development Advisory Commission
  • Charlene Hinton, legal services analyst for the VA DMV and former law enforcement
  • John Dixon, President of the Crusade for Voters and former law enforcement
  • Eli Coston, assistant professor at VCU and a police reform activist
  • Edward Miller, senior director of data analytics for West Creek and president of Marijuana Justice

You can review all applicant information here.

Editor's Note: This story was updated with a response from Councilwoman Kim Gray after publication.