Arlington candidate’s words draw harsh criticism from police

The race for Commonwealth’s Attorney for Arlington County and Falls Church, Virginia, has suddenly turned red hot.

Two groups representing current and retired police officers are demanding an apology from one of the candidates and the Arlington County Police Department has issued an unusual refutation of some of the candidate’s claims.

The candidate, Democrat Parisa Dehghani-Tafti, refuses to apologize.

The employee groups — the Arlington County Beneficiary Association and the Arlington Coalition of Police — criticize Dehghani-Tafti for a “disgraceful and false accusation of police brutality leveled at an Arlington County Police Officer.” The two groups demand a full public apology.

In campaign literature in her primary challenge to Commonwealth’s Attorney Theo Stamos, Dehghani-Tafti accused Stamos of refusing to prosecute police officers in cases of brutality, pointing to a May 2015 officer’s use of deadly force.

But the Arlington County Police Department said the officer in that case had been cleared by a criminal and administrative investigation and the officer shot the man in self-defense after the man attacked the officer with a metal pole, inflicting a serious injury to the officer’s face.

“The police performed an investigation on themselves and the Commonwealth’s Attorney reviewed that investigation,” said Dehghani-Tafti, a former public defender. “In other jurisdictions — in fact in neighboring counties — there are independent mechanisms to review the use of deadly force. Some folks bring in the state police, some folks bring in a special prosecutor, and some folks bring in a community review board and we don’t have any of those in Arlington County,” she said.

The Arlington County Police Department disputes some of Dehghani-Tafti’s other claims including that the county is facilitating a school to prison pipeline for Arlington students. Police say county crime statistics show felony arrests of juveniles on school property declined from 28 in 2017 to 14 in 2018. Police also deny the her charge that police enforcement of marijuana laws unfairly impacts people of color.

Dehghani-Tafti dismisses the criticism.

“When you’re running as a reformer as I am, you’re always going to get push back from people who are against reform,” Dehghani-Tafti said.

Dehghani-Tafti also is in favor of restoring voting rights for ex-felons and also allowing voting for felons who are incarcerated.

“If we wanted to prevent the most dangerous people from voting we could have a mechanism that was very narrowly tailored,” Dehgani-Tafti said. “But for the vast majority of people who will be getting out of prison, why should they lose their voting rights?”

Dehgani-Tafti is challenging Commonwealth’s Attorney Theo Stamos in the June 11 primary.

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