Public Comments for: HB670 - Independent policing auditor; county manager plan of government.
Hello. I am writing for full support of HB670 from Delegate Hope. I am Adam Theo, a nine-year resident of Arlington County. For nine years I had worked alongside law enforcement across the country, from Seattle, New York City, Birmingham, and Kearney (Nebraska). I got to know local and state police extensively during that time. Oversight of local law enforcement isn't something to be scared of or avoided. On the contrary it's to be celebrated as part of a healthy civil and democratic society. Allowing Arlington County to establish their new civilian police oversight board as an independent office outside of our unique County Manager structure of government, and thereby helping it be resilient and more effective, is critical for restoring faith in our police and helping them protect both our public safety and our civil liberties.
I have been involved with and/or living in Arlington County since 1991. I have seen this county change dramatically in that time and sometimes not change enough. While Arlington County elected to not implement the full range of authority granted by the General Assembly, we were with much effort and community support able to get a modified Civilian Oversight Board (COB) enacted into the County Code. As part of the COB, the County also elected to have a County Police Auditor as part of the process. While many in the county were skeptical of this position, we ultimately thought it was a reasonable compromise. However, unless you the General Assembly grant authority for this position to be hired and supervised by the County Board, that police auditor can neither be independent nor objective. In Arlington’s form of government, that auditor would be hired by the County Manager. The Chief of Police and his department are directly supervised by Mr. Schwartz, the Arlington County Manager. The community fears that having the police auditor report to, be evaluated by, and be part of the political structure of the County Manager’s staff snd operations turns the laudable objective of accountability and CIVILIAN oversight into a merely performative exercise or gesture. To build trust and community buy-in that the COB can indeed objectively and fairly function, the position need to be housed, supervised and reporting to the Arlington County Board (whom we elect) not the county manager (who we do not elect and who tend to stay in place through many Boards and many, many different Board Chairs). This police auditor should be on the same level in the organization chart as the County’s Fiscal Auditor position, for which the County was provided statutory authority to hire several years ago. Same concept, just different audit responsibilities. In closing, many of you are likely aware of the death of an inmate this week and the previous deaths in our jail. While Sheriffs are not covered by the statute, 7 deaths in 7 years and 3 deaths in less than 3 years shows the danger of both insular cultures and placing the day to day “boss” in charge of policing their own. Help us in Arlington have a truly Independent Police Auditor who is removed from such insularity thus allowing our COB to fulfill its statutory mandate. Please support Delegate Hope’s bill so that the police auditor has a fighting chance to be truly independent. Thank you for your consideration of my views.
Hello, my name is Janmarie Peña. I live in Arlington, and I'm a member of the Arlington Branch of the NAACP. I am here today to express my support for HB 670. We need community oversight of police that is effective and that residents can trust. This bill addresses one of the minimum pre-requisites for that to be possible, which is allowing the creation of policing auditors that are truly independent. Accountability requires true independence. Thank you so much.
Please save all of Virginias history, by leaving our monuments intact and historic memorabilia on display. The Commonwealths history should not offend anyone who takes the time to understand it and respect the changes that occurred. For instance Virginias State park history, the Commonwealth’s Roadways or the quaint country town with the history of its namesake and deep rooted genealogy of the people who lived there. The Monuments are no different, they speak of times gone by, appreciated by some, disliked by others. Maybe they are a symbol that change is needed and to remind us to do so, whatever the cause, our history brought us to this day in time. We need to respect each other’s heritage and appreciate how each native Virginian helped to shape all of us. Respectfully, Alan Crawford
I strongly support Delegate Hope's bill H670 because it will create an independent police auditor to support the newly-created Civilian Oversight Board. Right now, the auditor reports to the County Manager, who also oversees the police. Accountability and transparency require independence. Thank you. Kathleen McSweeney
Hello, and thank you for the opportunity to comment upon this proposed legislation. I am concerned that the proposed Arlington law enforcement Civilian Oversight Board is not independent enough to provide true and fair accountability. We need a truly independent policing auditor, one independent of local law enforcement, and I appreciate how Delegate Hope's bill will help accomplish this goal.
those of us who seek to have proper policing in our diverse communities think that it is best served when oversight is independent from the authorities for which the oversight board is created. We think it is common sense, appropriate, and just to have civilian oversight because police practices with no civilian oversight can turn tragic. No one should be afraid to ensure justice for all. because policing is such a dangerous job, and our officers have to be always alert, we see it as necessary to provide oversight for their safety as well. It is no easy thing to be a policeman. and lack of cultural competency sometimes gets in the way of doing the best job possible. Where there may be cultural insensitivity, independent civilian oversight can provide a better experience for all citizens and especially the police who serve our communities. to avoid conflict of interest, separate entities should provide the oversight and not someone who works within the realm of the very police force for which they have oversight. When we seek to have better societies, our police will have less volatile roles in communities and our country will be a better place in which to realize the American dream for all its residents. Thank you.
This bill would ensure a necessary procedural fix to the existing chain of command so that the oversight board is not supervised by the same person who also oversees local law enforcement. Accountability requires independence. I feel this is a must for our community to have fair justice to all. This is the type of change we need to get closer to equality
As a constituent from Patrick Hope's Distrcit I am pleased to lend my support to an independent way to audit law enforcement. I have had many positive interactions with Arlington police, but not entirely. One interaction was so unfortunate, I decided against submitting a crime report because of it. Arlington will be a safer and fairer place when it is easier to address these types of concerns.
Arlington County’s recent ordinance establishing a Law Enforcement Community Oversight Board was a compromise that did not adopt the full range of authority that Virginia Code §9.1-601 made available. Instead of giving the Oversight Board independent investigatory authority, it adopted a hybrid model of oversight by which an Independent Police Auditor will conduct an investigation jointly with the Arlington County Police Department (ACPD), and the Oversight Board may subsequently review the completed investigation. In other words, the Oversight Board will not investigate complaints in the first instance; it must trust the Independent Police Auditor to investigate for it. For this compromise to work, the Oversight Board must develop a close and trusting working relationship with the Independent Police Auditor (who also provides all necessary administrative and policy support for the Oversight Board). The Board will be heavily dependent on the professional skills and experience of the Auditor and the staff the Auditor hires to conduct complete and objective investigations. Ideally, in order to build that trust and rapport from the outset, the Oversight Board would have a role in interviewing and recommending, if not selecting, the Auditor. But selection of the Auditor by the County Board is the next best option, by helping assure not just the reality of the Auditor’s independence, but just as important, the appearance of independence. In contrast, leaving selection of the Auditor to the County Manager -- an unelected county official -- does the opposite. The County Manager’s supervises not just the police department, as county employees, but also the Auditor, and will evaluate the Auditor’s performance. Given the appearance of the Auditor’s dependence on the County Manager, it will be impossible for the Oversight Board – and the community it represents – not to wonder, “Is the ‘Independent Policing Auditor’ really independent”? HB670 would help preserve the appearance of independence and thus promote the rapport between the Oversight Board and the Independent Police Auditor that is essential to the Board’s effectiveness and credibility. It also returns the important decision of appointing the Independent Policing Auditor to the community’s elected representatives, instead of leaving it with an unelected county employee.