Arlington citizen group to review police policies and practices

A 15-member citizen group in Virginia’s Arlington County will review and report on police practices and policies following recent racial justice rallies across the country.

The review will “ensure that the Arlington County Police Department is current with policing best practices and continue to build trust between our police and the community,” Arlington County said in a news release.

The group will look at how police policies are working and how they are not, something that Arlington County Manager Mark Schwartz said the county was thinking about revisiting in a general sense, but it became an immediate focus after George Floyd’s death.

Members of the group include mental health advocates, police personnel, advocacy group representatives, attorneys and neighborhood leaders.

“The list of 15 is not to mean no one else will have input. I’ve asked the group to go take a look at how do they want to solicit input from the community,” Schwartz said.

They’ll begin with an external review led by facilitators to assess current policies and practices of the Arlington Police Department in six key areas, including use of force, training and supervision, cameras, recruitment and retention, internal affairs, and data on arrests and stops over the past three years.

Facilitating starting on Monday, July 20 is Marcia K. Thompson, vice president at Hilliard Heintze and a law enforcement expert who is also working with the Chicago and Louisville, Kentucky, police departments in reviewing their internal policies. Louisville officers are responsible for executing a no-knock warrant and killing Breonna Taylor in her bed earlier this year.

Alongside Thompson, Julie Shedd, associate dean at the School for Conflict Analysis and Resolution at the George Mason University Carter School, will aid in coordinating the discussions.

“This group will start us on a journey to tackle the important issues we face as a community regarding public safety for all of our residents,” said Arlington County Board Chair Libby Garvey.

“We have a fine police department in Arlington, however, it can and should be better. Arlington Police welcome the review and look forward to being a part of this important effort. These times call for a new look at how our community addresses public safety and policing.”

The group’s first meeting will be Aug. 3 and will tackle the role of the police department in providing mental health services, the role of the police department in traffic enforcement and opportunities for alternative dispute resolution, including restorative justice and mediation.

“We made an intentional effort to make sure there is representation from some of our neighborhoods including Green Valley and Halls Hill, predominantly Black neighborhoods, and also representatives from our Latino community, and also have representatives from our mental health community,” Schwartz said.

They are expected to report to the county manager by Dec. 21, which will allow Schwartz to find a police chief that fits with what the community needs.

He said the timing is also ahead of a budget deadline in case spending needs to be adjusted.

Current police Chief Jay Farr will retire before the end of this year.

A list of appointments to the committee can be seen on the county’s website.

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