EDITORIAL: Patience pays in pursuit of justice

Published 9:58 pm Thursday, August 4, 2022

Back in the spring of 2021, when a viral video of a Windsor traffic stop had partisans and activists on both sides howling for quick “justice,” we used this space to urge a collective deep breath.

It’s been said that the wheels of justice turn slowly, and often that pace is for good reason. Fifteen months after video footage of two Windsor police officers’ encounter with a Black motorist captured the nation’s attention, a multi-pronged response is unfolding just as it should:

  • The motorist, Army 2nd Lt. Caron Nazario, has filed a civil suit accusing the two officers of racially motivated brutality and will get his day in court. Attorneys on both sides continue to file important motions in preparation for a trial.
  • Former Attorney General Mark Herring’s civil suit accusing the Town of Windsor of widespread racial discrimination in law enforcement is proceeding in Isle of Wight Circuit Court. New Republican Attorney General Jason Miyares, who could have scored political points with his base by quickly dropping the complaint soon after taking office, has allowed it to continue while he carefully assesses its merits.
  • In the latest development, special prosecutor Anton Bell of Hampton determined — correctly, in our view — that state criminal charges against the officers are not warranted but that the U.S. Department of Justice should review whether Nazario’s civil rights were violated.

In April 2021, the social media mobs wanted officers Joe Gutierrez and Daniel Crocker metaphorically tarred and feathered in the public square, while many law-and-order conservatives demanded immediate exoneration of both. To their credit, authorities tuned out the “hot takes” and set out to do their jobs.

To a person, we believe they have acted appropriately. 

Town officials determined after careful review that Gutierrez violated department policy during the traffic stop and terminated him. 

Isle of Wight Commonwealth’s Attorney Georgette Phillips recused herself from the investigation, heeding concerns about her ability to be objective about a case involving law enforcement in her immediate jurisdiction. Bell, the special prosecutor, then took his time in assessing possible criminal liability. Miyares let Herring’s suit continue.

Their actions won’t please everyone, but those responsible for ensuring justice have a higher calling. We continue to keep an open mind while they do their jobs.