Alexandria plans to review police practices amid wave of protests

Responding to protests demanding reform, law enforcement leaders in Alexandria, Virginia, say they’re taking a hard look at their practices and promise improvements in policing.

The city conducted an online forum Monday night featuring Mayor Justin Wilson, Police Chief Michael Brown and Chief Deputy Shelbert Williams of the Alexandria Sheriff’s Office.

“We have to look at what we’re doing to make sure we’re doing it right and treating people with respect, especially those of color,” Brown said.

“Black and brown individuals and others in our community need a voice. They need to understand that we need to respect them and we need to ensure that we’re doing it the right way.”

Brown said police are re-examining their training and working to ensure that all officers undergo crisis intervention training.

Currently, 60% of the department’s officers have gone through the training, aimed at reducing risk of injury or death when officers are forced to confront individuals with mental illness.

The city is also reviewing laws currently on the books. Critics say minorities are disproportionately impacted by misdemeanor laws that can be unfairly enforced, sometimes trapping the innocent.

The mayor has promised a review of the city’s laws.

“I suspect that given a more [complete] perspective that we have now, looking at some of these laws that are on the books, we would go in a different direction [to] either make them civil or remove them entirely,” Wilson said.

The law enforcement leaders also said that police recruiting is down sharply across the nation, and that it’s challenging to find and recruit new officers.

“When I applied [27 years ago], the line was around the corner. Now, we’re begging people. We have to go to job fairs, other job locations to try to pull people in,” Williams said.

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