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More than 100 residents apply for a seat on Arlington’s new police oversight board

Police response on Columbia Pike (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

The County Board and the community have a small mountain of applications to Arlington’s new police oversight board to sift through.

Between October and December of last year, more than 100 people applied to sit on the county’s Community Oversight Board,  according to Board Vice-Chair Christian Dorsey.

The County Board created the group last summer to receive complaints of police misconduct. Following the recommendations of the Police Practices Group — convened after 2020’s summer of nationwide racial justice protests — the Board endowed the COB with the power to subpoena for evidence or witnesses if the police department withholds them.

Now, the County Board and a panel of community members have the monumental task of winnowing down the 100 applicants to nine candidates — seven voting and two non-voting members — by mid-March.

“On behalf of all of us, I think we can say thank you, thank you for the tremendous outpouring of interest and support for this initiative in Arlington,” said Dorsey, who is a liaison to the COB along with Board member Matt de Ferranti.

A multi-step interview process is now underway, says Dorsey.

Candidates have been invited to participate in video interviews so they can be screened before they go before a panel, which will largely be composed of people who were engaged in the creation of the COB last year.

This panel will choose who will interview with the County Board.

Dorsey says the goal is to fully impanel the COB by the County Board’s March meeting.

“We are very, very thrilled that this is going to move forward,” he said. “We really thank so many Arlingtonians who are interested in transparency and accountability in law enforcement and working to build trust with our police department and community.”

Dorsey noted that he was pleased the applicant pool reflects Arlington’s diversity.

“This was very much a standard by which we want to establish our Community Oversight Board, and at least from the screening of the applicants thus far, we will absolutely be able to meet that important mandate,” he said.

The COB would be lead by an independent auditor-monitor who can conduct investigations concurrent with internal police department investigations. This position, however, is subject to approval by state legislature, possibly during the 2022 legislative session.

Del. Patrick Hope (D-47) is chief patron of House Bill 670 that would allow Arlington County to appoint the independent policing auditor.

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