In the wake of the death of George Floyd at the hands of four since-fired Minneapolis police officers, and the fiery protests that have followed, Arlington’s police chief has released a letter to the community.
The letter seeks to reassure residents that Arlington police are well-trained, use force judiciously, and are thoroughly investigated when they do.
“We take our responsibility to protect our diverse and inclusive community willingly and without reservation,” the letter from Chief M. Jay Farr says. “The officers of the Arlington County Police Department are a highly-skilled, trained, and dedicated force who show great restraint daily.”
The letter also notes that while all ACPD cruisers have in-car video cameras, officers have still not been equipped with body cams. “Due to other funding priorities, this program has not been funded,” Farr wrote.
The full letter is below.
Members of the Arlington County Community,
Above all else, the Arlington County Police Department is committed to the principle that all individuals will be treated with dignity and respect. We adhere to the protections afforded by the Constitution to assure everyone’s rights are safeguarded. It is impossible for us to achieve our mission if we lose the trust of our community. When force is used, we must hold ourselves accountable for our actions. We take our responsibility to protect our diverse and inclusive community willingly and without reservation. I wanted to share with you some of the initiatives the Arlington County Police Department has in place to assure that you have confidence that we will provide the level of service that is not only expected but reflected by this community.
The department is committed to providing our officers with exceptional training. New officers each receive approximately 800 hours of formal Academy training followed by 630 hours of field training. A review of training records over five years indicated that sworn staff had attended an average of approximately 55,000 hours of training annually (this number includes new officer training). This training covers topics such as: legal issues/review, cultural diversity, implicit bias, ethics, verbal judo, conflict communications, defensive tactics, firearms, investigations, and other topics related to the daily responsibilities of a police officer. Additionally, the department is committed to our Crisis Intervention Training program. This training is designed to equip officers with the knowledge and skills necessary to deal with a situation involving a person in a mental crisis. However, many of the skills learned are often used to deescalate a variety of situations, regardless of the mental status of parties involved. Currently, approximately 75% of the Patrol Section officers are CIT certified.
All patrol vehicles are equipped with in-car cameras. Body-worn cameras are not currently used by the department. Each year the Police Department meets with the County Manager’s Office to review the body-worn camera program and discuss the agency’s current operational needs. Due to other funding priorities, this program has not been funded.
To maintain community trust, the Arlington County Police Department actively investigates all allegations of officer misconduct to make sure we are holding ourselves accountable to the highest standards of professional law enforcement. There is also a process that identifies when officers have received multiple complaints in a given period, which triggers an automatic inquiry. An analysis of calls for service numbers compared to complaints against our staff shows that we receive complaints in less than one-tenth of a percent of our documented police/citizen encounters. In addition to the regular community contacts initiated by the Community Outreach and Business Outreach Teams, I have an advisory council comprised of County residents and civic leaders who meet regularly to discuss topics of concern in Arlington.
To ensure compliance with departmental policy and procedures, the Department’s Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR) is tasked with internal audits for equipment, personnel, and training in addition to investigating allegations of misconduct. Additionally, OPR oversees the department’s accreditation through the Virginia Law Enforcement Professional Standards Commission (VLEPSC), ensuring effective and efficient delivery of services while promoting public confidence and professionalism. During the accreditation process, the department must evaluate current policies and demonstrate compliance with the standards published in the Virginia Law Enforcement Program Accreditation Manual. In April 2019, a group of VLEPSC assessors conducted an on-site evaluation, examining written directives, proofs, physical facilities, equipment, processes and procedures. The assessors presented their findings to the Commission and recommended that the agency be granted its Initial Accreditation status.
Community engagement is one of the agency’s three key initiatives and the Arlington County Police Department takes great pride in the relationships we have established with the community. Arlington’s community satisfaction surveys continue to show high resident satisfaction percentages above the national averages. Communication is undoubtedly at the forefront of the department’s objective to continue to help provide a quality of life to citizens so they may live safely and without fear. We participate in several outreach initiatives to engage with the community to ensure that we are meeting the community’s needs. For example, each fall, the department hosts a Citizen’s Police Academy to inform and educate residents on how the Arlington County Police Department operates and its role in the community. To further engage with the community, our officers attend civic association meetings, special events, host a popular Coffee with a Cop series and provide training to community groups and businesses. Due to the current pandemic, community events have been canceled in Arlington County; however, our officers continue to respond to emergency calls for service, interact with residents online and are conducting bike patrol and foot patrol in areas with heavy pedestrian traffic.
The officers of the Arlington County Police Department are a highly-skilled, trained, and dedicated force who show great restraint daily. All use of force incidents are documented and investigated by supervisory staff. Members of the Criminal Investigations Section thoroughly investigate deadly force incidents, and the entire investigative file is forwarded to the Office of the Commonwealth’s Attorney for independent review. Additionally, the circumstances of any use of deadly force are also investigated by staff from the Office of Professional Responsibility.
We are committed to building trust and confidence with those we serve. We hope you’ll follow us on our social media platforms, and once it’s safe to have community events again, will join us and explore the many ways we can work together to continue making Arlington County a great place to live, work and visit.
M. Jay Farr
Chief of Police