Arlington, VA

Arlington County police leaders defended the department’s record in an interview with local Black Lives Matter organizer Yolande Kwinana‎ Thursday evening.

The ACPD brass discussed ways the department can make progress towards reform and some areas where the department has hit stumbling blocks during the course of the livestreamed discussion But the interview started with officials defending the shooting of Alfredo Rials-Torres and talking about areas the department can improve.

In May 2015, the 54-year-old man was fatally shot by an Arlington officer during a domestic violence call involving the man’s mother. The shooting was used as a jumping-off point for a discussion of how Arlington police handle the use of force.

“We will do everything we can to talk our way through something and do everything we can to de-escalate,” Chief Jay Farr said. “In this case, the officer was assaulted with a metal pole. In this case, the officer defended himself. Their first objective was to use a less than lethal taser and it did not work adequately.”

Kwinana discussed eight reforms suggested in a campaign called 8cantwait and asked the brass how those goals would fit in with the department. The goals are:

  1. Banning chokeholds and strangleholds
  2. Requiring de-escalation
  3. Requiring a warning before shooting
  4. Requires officers to exhaust all alternatives before shooting
  5. An obligation to intervene and stop excessive force and report it to a supervisor
  6. Banning shooting at moving vehicles
  7. Require a use of force continuum
  8. Require comprehensive reporting

Deputy Chief Andy Penn addressed each of those points, saying that many of them are already implemented, like the ban on chokeholds and strangleholds — a ban currently being considered by the Minneapolis Police Department following the killing of George Floyd at the hands of four Minneapolis officers.

Per No. 6, Penn said policy is not to shoot at moving vehicles, but that there are exceptions.

“The only exceptions are if someone in the vehicle is shooting at an officer or if the vehicle is charging at someone and no other option exists,” Penn said. That’s what happened in 2017, when two officers shot and killed a man who pinned one of the officers with his pickup truck, and in 2019, when a man was shot and wounded by police after he allegedly tried to ram an officer with a van, a charge his family disputed.

Penn said the department would be looking at “tightening up” the language around requiring officers to report incidents of other officers using excessive force.

“We need to add language that if you see [someone] do something, you’re obligated to report it,” Penns aid. “We need to consider language tweaking.”

Kwinana also pressed Arlington police on transparency, asking why Arlington does not release information about how many complaints are filed against officers. Derek Chauvin, the officer charged with second-degree murder for George Floyd’s death, had 18 prior complaints filed against him.

Farr said the department releases information regarding how many complaints are filed, investigated, and what the outcomes were, but Penn said the department does not release information about individual complaints against officers.

“It also becomes a personnel matter,” Penn said. “Everything can’t be shared. We’re happy to provide aggregate data but with personnel, that’s a legal issue with privacy. You won’t find individual names.”

Farr said while there are no independent review boards for use of force in Arlington, that’s something he’s willing to explore.

“One thing willing to consider, but we haven’t looked deeply into it: Fairfax county has post-investigative effort,” Farr said. “Fairfax police conducts an investigation for more serious things and they present to the commonwealth, but when that case is done, a group of citizens are given opportunity to look through the case in great detail and make recommendations in great detail back with what worked well, what didn’t work well.”

Farr said he liked the model because it has citizens who are willing to learn and understand the law and requirements of the state look over the information independently.

“They clearly have to know what they’re looking at and assessing,” Farr said. “They do extensive training with these volunteers so if they look at the case they understand the policy and they understand the law. What we don’t want… someone who doesn’t do this for a living, their emotional response will be whatever it is before all the facts come out.”

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Arlington’s own extreme endurance athlete Michael Wardian is comfortable on a treadmill. Comfortable enough to play Madden while running. Comfortable enough to do an interview while running. And, he hopes, comfortable enough to reclaim the 50K treadmill world record tomorrow.

Starting at 6 p.m. Saturday, Wardian says he’ll start running with an aim of breaking the 50K record (around 31 miles) in around two hours and 57 minutes.

For Wardian, it’s an attempt to take back a record he previously held, but one that he says has been broken a few times since quarantine started and more runners looking for records to beat have taken to treadmills. Wardian says he’s not worried.

“I’ve set a bunch of world records on the treadmill, I’m pretty confident,” Wardian said with a laugh. “There’s nothing you have to worry about other than picking your feet up.”

It would not be the first record Wardian, 45, has set during the pandemic. In April, he ran 262.52 miles in a loop around his neighborhood as part of a quarantine ultramarathon challenge.

Wardian said he enjoys the treadmill because it feels like the most “fair” kind of running, without other factors in the course that can give runners an advantage or disadvantage. He noted that at marathons people only usually see the runner at the start and the finish, but on a treadmill run they can watch him or her the whole time through the race.

“There’s going to be a live stream,” Wardian said. “We’ll send a link out later today and people can Zoom or they can go to my Facebook, Instagram or Twitter and can make requests during the run. I think it will be awesome. We’ll have announcers and people there going for other records.”

For aspiring treadmill runners, Wardian also offered a little advice.

“Like a lot of things, it takes a lot of practice,” Wardian said. “A big part is just knowing where all the buttons are and changing the inclines. If you are running, you may want to put it at one percent grade because it mimics being outside. I also recommend changing the incline if you’re on a long run so your feet don’t hit at the same place every time.”

Photo courtesy Michael Wardian

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This weekend, Calvary United Methodist Church in Aurora Highlands is holding a “Stuff the Truck” donation event to collect food for the Chirilagua neighborhood in Alexandria.

The community — also known as Arlandria — has faced disproportionately high numbers of COVID-19 positive patients, as have Latino and Hispanic communities in Arlington and throughout the region.

Local nonprofits have worked to get food and other emergency supplies to hard-hit Chirilagua.

“Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many in the Chirilagua neighborhood are experiencing hardship from job loss, sickness, and food insecurity,” Calvary UMC said in a media advisory. “Recent data revealed that over 40% of Chirilagua residents are unemployed and, in mid-May, over 55% of COVID tests taken by community members living in Chirilagua were positive.”

This Saturday, June 6, Calvalry UMC is hosting a donation event at the church (2315 S. Grant Street) from 11 a.m.-1 p.m. to fill a 20-foot truck with items most needed by Chirilagua residents and families.

“To participate, donors can come to Calvary UMC and bring donated food and supplies to place in the truck,” the church said. “Items needed most are shelf-stable foods such as rice, beans, canned food and cornflour.”

The event is the latest in a series of fundraisers and food drives for the church to support the Chirilagua community. So far, the church says it has raised $24,000 of its $25,000 goal. The church plans to make an additional $15,000 pledge to bring the total to at least $40,000, the church said.

“Donors wishing to make a financial contribution to MISSION:COVID can donate at the event or through the Calmeth.org website,” the church said, “or text GIVE to 703-936-2684 and select MISSION:COVID from the menu.”

Staff photo by James Cullum

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While Arlington is celebrating a new high in drop-off glass recycling, after discontinuing the recycling of glass collected curbside, a pair of local brothers have set up their own business to fill a gap in the market.

In a local Facebook group, Joe Core said he and his brother — both college students — would pick up glass from people’s homes to take it to one of Arlington’s drop-off glass recycling bins for $7. The service is contact-free, reducing the risk of spreading disease through in-person contact.

“The idea came about as my brother and I began to recycle our own family’s glass at Quincy Park and realized it was easy for us to drive just down the street and do it,” Core said, “but for many people it may be something they wouldn’t want to go out of their way to do but rather pay someone else to do.”

Core and his brother are hoping to make some extra money during the pandemic while filling a community need.

“The transition from an idea to business occurred when my brother and I realized how boring quarantine could be and that we should use our time to make money rather than just sitting around,” Core said. “From then we put out advertisements and reached out to family friends to get our business going.”

The services can be booked online, by calling 703-517-9031 or through email at [email protected]

So far, Core said business has been decentm with a decent base of regular customers. There hasn’t been any feedback from the county so far about the business, he said.

“We haven’t gotten a response from the county yet but we have been active users of the glass recycling centers and are thankful for the centers which give us a place to recycle,” Core said.

The brothers typically do two or three pickups a day, according to Core, and it’s usually a plastic storage bin worth of glass, but sometimes it’s two or three containers per customer.

At this point, we’ve kind of hit a plateau in terms of acquiring new customers, but are trying to figure out new ways to advertise our services,” Core said. “We are also looking into building relationships with apartment complexes to do larger community pickups.”

Image via Arlington County

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As Arlington’s restaurants try to return to some semblance of normalcy during the first phase of reopening, some local restaurants are anxiously awaiting Arlington County approval of temporary outdoor seating permits.

Owners of two eateries along the Columbia Pike corridor, Ethiopian restaurant Dama Pastry & Cafe (1505 Columbia Pike) and Ididos Coffee and Social House (1107 S. Walter Reed Drive) said getting access to outdoor dining is a crucial part of getting business back to normal.

“We are just waiting,” said Hailu Dama, owner of Dama Pastry & Cafe, which has a small parking lot in front of the restaurant, located near the Air Force Memorial. “We applied for outside dining and are waiting for Arlington County. Once that gets approved, we’ll put up tents and have some small space on the side. So far, that’s what we’re thinking about.”

Currently, Dama said his small business needs the boost — opening up an outdoor space would expand their capacity at a critical time.

“It’s just been very slow,” Dama said. “We closed for about a month because of the employees and the whole situation. We reopened three weeks ago and it’s been picking up a little bit, but to get to the point pre-corona… it’s going to take some time.”

Mesfin Demise, a partner in Ididos Coffee and Social House said he’s similarly hoping outdoor dining can help boost slow sales.

“There’s been a little back and forth on outdoor seating,” Demise said. “That has not happened yet, it’s probably a day or two delay. Once we get that permit for temporary outdoor dining, then we should be really great.”

Ididos opened for takeout, Demise said, but as a coffee shop, business had really suffered.

“April was really bad, business-wise,” Demise said. “May picked up, but it’s not back to normal. It was about 20% down from where we used to be. It’s mainly because of the community that we were so close.”

Demise said Columbia Pike neighbors rallied to support local businesses during the pandemic, something for which he’s deeply appreciative.

“With the County approving, hopefully, we can do outdoor seating,” Demise said. “I think that will boost sales. I don’t want to say we’ll go back to normal, but right now it still hurts.”

Even with the permit, though, Demise said the state has still put limitations on outdoor seating that he said business owners should be the ones to set.

“Outdoor seating is 50% of indoor seating,” Demise said. “In our case, we have 13 seats allowed, so we can only do six seats outdoors. That limitation probably hurts, but it’s better than nothing.”

Demise said it took a lot of work, but he’s been able to keep most of his employees and adjust schedules to keep nearly everyone on payroll. He said he’s looking forward to being able to bring people to the restaurant to sit around.

“People loved to sit around the restaurant, so missing that was a big challenge,” Demise said. “Adjusting to simply pouring coffee or lattes and sending them to customers, that’s been very difficult.”

Staff photo by Jay Westcott

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Over the next three weeks, Ballston streets might look a little more colorful than before thanks to a new series of murals commissioned by BallstonGives, a charitable subsidiary of the Ballston Business Improvement District.

Artist Patrick Owens was commissioned to do a series of chalk images on the sidewalk over the next three weeks. The first was completed earlier this week outside Randolph Towers (4001 9th Street N.).

“We are ever-inspired by the resiliency of our Ballston community and businesses and are delighted to celebrate the workers who have continued to keep this neighborhood running during the pandemic,” said Tina Leone, CEO of the Ballston BID, in a press release. “We truly regard them as our hometown heroes, so we felt it was fitting to honor them as such across several industries while injecting color onto the streets for passersby to enjoy.”

The Ballston BID said Owens will be going around Ballston and working on other murals over the next few weeks, weather dependent. Check out the art while you can, given the rain in the forecast over the next few days.

Photo courtesy Ballston BID

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Arlington Public Library is preparing to start allowing pickups for books, but the staggered reopening will not immediately resemble the pre-pandemic library experience

The first step towards reopening will be a book pick-up from the Central Library (1015 N. Quincy Street).

“Starting mid-June, Arlington Public Library will offer a walk-in/walk-out service for hold pickups and book bundles in the auditorium at Central Library,” Diane Kresh, Director of the Arlington Public Library said. “Operating hours for the holds pickup service are being decided and we will communicate details as we have them. Computers, self-check stations, and meeting rooms will not be available for use.”

“All branch locations will remain closed,” Kresh added. “Returns will be accepted via book drop at all branches.”

Both patrons and staff will be required to wear masks and observe social distancing at all times when inside the library building.

Arlington Public Library will continue its annual Summer Reading Challenge, Kresh said, though this year the program will be fully digital. Kresh said more details about that program will be forthcoming this week.

Arlington READS continues virtually,” Kresh said. “In June, we will host a conversation with Brooke Gladstone, journalist, author, media analyst, and co-host and managing editor of the WNYC radio program ‘On the Media.’ And in July, we are thrilled to present Pulitzer Prize-winning author, Colson Whitehead (‘The Underground Railroad’ and ‘The Nickel Boys’). Stay tuned for details; both programs promise to be lively and engaging.”

Kresh said she knows that the planned reopening is not the kind of library experience many Arlington residents are hoping to return to.

“We recognize there is no replacement for an in-person, full-service library experience,” Kresh said. “Over the years, the staff and I have been honored to serve the community of Arlington and have always tried to strike a balance between the high tech of our digital content and the high touch of our popular story times and author events. We cherish the relationships we have developed with each one of you and look forward to better times. Please know that we are thinking of all of you and that together, we will get through this.”

File photo

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Sponsored by Monday Properties and written by ARLnowStartup Monday is a weekly column that profiles Arlington-based startups and their founders, plus other local technology happenings. Monday Properties remains firmly committed to the health, safety and well-being of its employees, tenants and community. This week, Monday Properties is proudly featuring 1000 and 1100 Wilson (The Rosslyn Towers).

It could be a while before coronavirus leaves the public consciousness, and Ballston startup HandArmor hopes to help reduce the spread of the disease.

The company has developed a reusable mitt, designed to help the user touch and handle objects without worry of contaminants. The product includes an integrated disinfectant to clean while it protects.

“HandArmor is a patent-pending product used to help prevent direct contact with unclean surfaces,” the company said on its website. “The microfiber mitt conveniently clips to belts, pockets, blouses, skirts and lanyards. The mitt rests at your hip while sitting, standing and walking.”

The idea is to be able to reach down and slip your hand into the mitt when approaching a door, spray the disinfectant on the glove, open the door with the glove and release the glove to slide back to your belt.

The website designs that glove as “PPE for the office.” Gloves, an advertisement said, only continues to spread the germs around. In combination with the spray, HandArmor claims the glove will clean surfaces it touches, keeping the user and other employees safe.

The microfiber gloves can also be used for touch-screens.

The HandArmor is $14.95, which includes the spray bottle and belt clips. For orders over 100 units, customers should contact [email protected]

Photo via Facebook/HandArmor

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Like many community members in Arlington, Amanda and Michael Sutton were concerned that the pandemic could lead to a wider education gap between those with resources at home and those without. So they decided to do something about it.

The Suttons have so far raised more than $6,400 via an online fundraising campaign called “My Job Bags.”

“A child’s ‘job’ is to imagine, create, learn and play,” the couple said on the GoFundMe page, which is nearing its $7,000 goal. “We’re working to assemble bags for children in need and to provide them with supplies to learn and be creative while at home. We’re accepting monetary donations as well as donations of the supplies below that will be included in the bags. All money collected will be used to purchase supplies and the bags will be assembled and distributed by volunteers.”

Amanda said she was among those trying to find ways to help out, knowing that many families were losing their jobs and students relied on the public schools for food and support. Other restaurants and teachers stepped up to help cover food needs, but there were other needs that were going unmet.

“We initially looked at ways we could help to provide food, in addition to financial support — and luckily, we found there are many organizations out there to help,” Amanda said. “Then as I was perusing Amazon for more homeschooling activities for my three sons, I couldn’t help but think of all the local families who are unable to do that. With all schools being closed, students are now forced to stay at home without basic school supplies, books and toys.”

That’s when Amanda and Michael came up with the My Job Bags campaign, thinking that children should be focused on playing, creating, imagining and learning.

“The hope was that during this scary and unprecedented time, students may have some comfort in knowing they can still continue their ‘job,'” Amanda said. “We brainstormed what to put in the bags — our goal was to include items that help keep a child entertained for long periods of time, have endless options for play, and enhance imagination and creativity.”

Among the additions to the bags was a jump rope, based on the suggestion of a local PE teacher. In total, Amanda said the contents of My Job Bags are:

  • crayons
  • markers
  • pencils
  • pencil sharpeners
  • dry erase board with marker and eraser
  • construction paper
  • spiral notebook
  • scissors
  • glue stick
  • jump rope
  • bag of Legos
  • book

“I then spent some time researching the cost of these items — and was ultimately able to get the price down to about $7.00 per bag thanks to bulk ordering,” Amanda said. “Once our idea was solidified, my husband and I decided to begin by donating about 250 bags. However, we knew the need was much greater in the community which prompted us to create the GoFundMe campaign.”

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With parks reopening on Saturday, some Arlingtonians were eager to walk around some of the county’s nationally ranked parklands, only to find a padlock secured across the front entrance.

At Hayes Park, the front gates were secured, keeping visitors away from the three-acre park north of Virginia Square.

Arlington County Parks & Recreation said on Twitter that the park remained closed because the playground on the site could not be secured. Playgrounds across the region remain closed, with leaders in neighboring Alexandria suggesting they could remain closed until September.

Hayes Park was still locked up last night (Wednesday) but Susan Kalish, spokeswoman for the parks department, said the padlock has been removed and the park reopened this morning (Thursday).

“In our efforts to reopen park spaces for May 23, we had some bumps,” said Kalish. “The park spaces at Hayes Park are open for people to enjoy if they social distance. The playground and tennis courts, like all in Arlington, are off-limits.”

With parks back open for passive recreation and Arlington about to enter “Phase 1” of a regional reopening, county officials are hoping that locals abide by the remaining restrictions.

“Our park spaces are open and people should be able to access them now,” Kalish added. “We should have caution tape around the playgrounds and specific signage that the playground, shelter, field, court and other amenities are closed. If people are confused, they can connect with us on Twitter or Facebook or at [email protected] or 703-228-4747.”

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As Arlington prepares to move into Phase 1 of the reopening, some local barbershops and salons are ready to reopen with a different look.

Illusions of Shirlington (4033 Campbell Avenue) is planning to reopen this Friday, though its owner acknowledged that the new restrictions will make her work and that of her staff a bit harder.

“I’m very excited about reopening,” said Irma Wheeler, owner of Illusions of Shirlington. “We’ve been very anxious and have been getting ready since the beginning of the shutdown.”

Illusions has been open for 27 years, but when it reopens on Friday, Wheeler said things will be a little different. There are plexiglass shields at the front desk to separate customers and employees. No more than 10 people, including staff, will be allowed in the salon at any given time. Each appointment will be longer to allow plenty of time to clean stations and tools between clients. Wheeler said that will mean longer hours for her and her staff.

“It’s been difficult to find supplies, even disinfectant,” Wheeler said. “We have face shields and masks, and we’re taking the temperatures of clients and staff. We’re trying to take every precaution… it’s going to be difficult, but we’ll be ready.”

Wheeler said masks, gloves and face shields will be work by all the staff, while clients must wear a mask. (Face shields will be provided at the shampoo station to keep the masks dry.)

Like other Arlington businesses, Wheeler said Illusions of Shirlington struggled with the closure but was able to maintain connections with their clientele through online tutorials on how they could trim their hair at home.

“We’ve done a lot of social media,” Wheeler said. “We’ve had requests from clientele, so we sent out instructions on how to do things themselves. Stylists were available to help people through it, sometimes explaining things outside in person. We were able to keep in touch.”

Meanwhile, in Ballston, the Bearded Goat Barber at Ballston Exchange (4201 Wilson Blvd) is preparing to reopen for haircuts and hair washes but without the signature beard trimming.

Like Illusions, Bearded Goat Barber said appointments will be prolonged to allow for proper disinfection and sanitation between clients. The shop will operate at 50% capacity, with every other chair being empty to allow for social distancing.

Further east, Clarendon salon Urban Halo (2900 Clarendon Blvd) had signs on the front door saying it too will be reopening on Friday.

Photo via Illusions of Shirlington/Instagram

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