Submit Content

Police Association: Arlington Officers Support Some Proposed Reforms

(Updated at 4:q0 p.m.) After weeks of protests in Arlington and around the world, the association that represents Arlington police officers is weighing in on calls for police reform.

While arguing that ACPD is one of the most educated and well-trained police forces around, the association says that some changes may make sense. Defunding the department, however, could result in lower-quality policing, they say.

“Our officers in Arlington County are well-educated, highly trained, thoughtful men and women,” Arlington Coalition of Police President Scott Wanek said in an interview with ARLnow last week. “They’ve been delivering high-quality police services to the Arlington community for decades.”

As police departments around the country are scrutinized for excessive use of force, and as outrage over police killings boils over, the message from the association is: ACPD is different.

In Arlington, entry-level officers with no prior police or military experience are required to have completed 60 semester hours at an accredited college or university. Most officers have bachelor degrees and many have post-graduate degrees, according to Wanek.

That level of education, and the extensive training that Arlington officers receive, set the department apart.

“At every stop in [field officer training] de-escalation is taught. We have implicit bias training. We teach exhaustive conflict communications training, to include 75% of our officers are certified in our [Crisis Intervention Team] program… for mental health crisis situations,” said Wanek. “A lot of training goes in to our officers.”

Out of about 118,000 police-citizen interactions in 2019, Wanek said, there were 67 uses of force.

“Our goal is to do what we can to reduce it even further, that’s always a worthwhile endeavor,” he said, “especially since in about 40% of the cases our officers sustain injuries in interactions where they’re required to use force.”

Asked about a rising rate of complaints about ACPD officers in 2019, Wanek said some of that is attributable to changes in the way such data is recorded. He pointed out that most of the complaints were generated within the department.

“We don’t just stand idly by,” said Wanek. “That’s not in our culture.”

As for the now-infamous deployment of riot-clad ACPD officers near the White House — the squad was removed after being ordered to clear peaceful protesters away from a presidential photo op — Wanek defended the officers involved.

“In retrospect, it’s unfortunate that we were put in that position,” he said. The officers “behaved well, didn’t violate any policy, procedure, or laws. We certainly didn’t appreciate the optics we got, and we’re looking to move forward, collaborate with the community, and be a voice in the discussion of how we’re going to change law enforcement and the criminal justice system.”

“The residents of Arlington have a right and a responsibility to decide how they’re policed,” Wanek continued. “That’s where the faith in our badges come from. We can’t effectively enforce the laws of the Commonwealth if the community doesn’t believe in us.”

In terms of proposed reforms, Arlington officers are “clearly in support of any reasonable idea that leads to reduced use of force and officer injuries,” according to Wanek. That includes the forthcoming use of body cameras.

“We support the use of body cameras,” Wanek said. “Our officers are thoughtful, well-educated, competent… our feeling is that if you put cameras on them it’s going to show more of that.”

“Cameras tend to exonerate officers more often than not,” he added. “More importantly… the presence of the camera can play a role in an offender deciding not to assault an officer, eliminating the need for use of force altogether.”

While Arlington officers are trained to respond to mental health crises, Wanek said the calls of some police reform advocates for alternatives to law enforcement intervention in mental health issues and homelessness is “a phenomenal idea.”

“There are two easily achievable reforms… ending police response to nonviolent mental health crises and homeless person calls,” Wanek said. “I reject the notion that injecting an armed police officer in incidents of a mental health crisis… is a solution, it’s not.”

If police reform means “divesting the police from certain unrealistic, historical obligations, then so be it,” he said, adding that there are also some “civil matters and things that aren’t criminal” to which police are dispatched that should be reevaluated.

As for the calls of some to defund the police — a newly-formed group wants ACPD’s $74 million budget cut by “at least 10%” — Wanek said “that’s up to the citizens of Arlington, and to the [County] Board.”

He noted that officers don’t have collective bargaining rights in Virginia and “thus don’t have power in local politics, other than to ask nicely for things.” But cutting the budget could have the opposite effect that reform advocates want, he suggested.

“My fear is that if you cut the budget by a substantial enough… it’s going to affect our ability to attract the people that we have historically attracted to our department and who have historically done a really good job,” he said. “That would be a shame.”

Recent Stories

As seven-year-old Jaxon Vega positions his skateboard at the top of the concrete bowl at Powhatan Springs Skate Park, he takes a deep breath. Vega steadies the back of the…

A section of Columbia Pike will be reduced to one lane in each direction starting next week. The lane closure, which is set to start Monday and stretch into January…

Clarendon’s newest lash and brow studio is hoping to open next month. A mid-September opening is likely for Deka Lash at 1041 N. Highland Street, a company spokesperson told ARLnow….

Don’t look now but Covid cases are declining in Arlington. The average daily reported case rate in the county is currently around 90, down from 184 on Memorial Day. At…

Do you struggle with anxiety, depression, stress, grief, trauma or anger? Are
you ready to make a change?

Lauren K. Nickum, LCSW, CSAC from Peaceful Mind Solutions is now taking new
clients for psychotherapy. Lauren has over 10 years of experience treating
mental health disorders and general life stress in adults and adolescents. For
more information visit
peacefulmindsolutions.com.

Submit your own Community Post here.

(This Community Post was written by Signature Theatre and underwritten by Embracing Arlington Arts.)

Signature Theatre just released single tickets for all 33rd season productions, which highlights the organization’s long-time relationship with legendary composer Stephen Sondheim. Beginning with the musical adaptation of The Color Purple and irreverent No Place to Go, the season continues with three Sondheim musicals, the DC premieres of Off-Broadway hit Which Way to the Stage and Pulitzer Prize finalist Selling Kabul, the Tony Award®-winning rock musical Passing Strange, and return of Signature’s cabaret series honoring legendary artists.

“Last November, the world lost an icon. The death of Stephen Sondheim was a blow to everyone in the theater community. Signature Theatre would not be the same without Sondheim — he IS Signature’s ‘signature.’ This season, we are honoring the legend with productions of Into the Woods, Pacific Overtures and Sweeney Todd dedicated to his memory. These shows represent the diversity and range of Sondheim,” said Signature’s Artistic Director Matthew Gardiner about the new season.

Read More

Submit your own Community Post here.

ACFCU’s Homebuying Happy Hour

Are you ready to buy your first home, but concerned about saving for a down payment? Grab a drink and join us for 45 minutes to learn more about how you can buy your first house with 3%, 5%, or

Azure Dream Day Spa Grand Opening

Azure Dream Day Spa is hosting their Grand Opening Celebration at their beautiful new spa located at 901 N. Quincy St. on Friday, August 12 from 5-9 p.m.

All are invited to come tour the new spa and to take

×

Subscribe to our mailing list