Arlington Coalition of Police Response to the Death of George Floyd and DC Protests
During an increasingly volatile time when tensions are heightened and nerves are frayed, the Arlington Coalition of Police would like to offer a series of apologies. We offer these apologies humbly in the hopes that they can serve to begin to mend a number of wounds on a number of fronts that were a long time in the making.
First and foremost, we apologize to George Floyd and his family. What happened in Minneapolis on May 25 was murder. The behavior shown by the involved police officers was callous and inexcusable. It should not have happened. It should never happen. That behavior is not what we stand for, nor what our members represent. We support those Minneapolis police officers being held accountable for their actions.
We apologize to Black and Brown communities across the country and within Arlington County. We understand that the immense pain, anger, and frustration you feel was not born out of a single incident, such as what happened in Minneapolis, but rather has been building for lifetimes. We understand that your trust and faith in our profession is at perhaps the lowest point it ever has been. It is not lost on us that it is our responsibility to work alongside you to address that.
We want you to know that we, too, are angered and frustrated by the environment in which we all have found ourselves. For as long as this department has been in existence, we have striven to serve all of this county’s citizens — and the thousands of people who travel in and out of Arlington each day — in as upstanding a manner as possible. When we have failed in that regard, you let us know. We appreciate that feedback and we take steps to improve the service we provide you. The product you experience today, unfinished and constantly adapting as it may be, is something you repeatedly have told us you are proud of. Community Satisfaction Survey – 2018 Results
And so we also apologize to our ACOP members, specifically the ones who hastily were pulled out of Washington, D.C. last night while serving in a mutual aid capacity to assist another agency. Just like we respond every time someone in Arlington calls us for help, we also respond when our surrounding jurisdictions need assistance. The mutual aid agreements we have with those agencies are not new, and everyone in a position of supervision over our department, including but not limited to the Arlington County Board, has known — or had ample reason to know — about their existence and terms for quite some time.
Nonetheless, last night the County Board decided impulsively to order the ACPD contingent out of D.C. We believe the County Board acted rashly, and a number of different constituencies now may pay a price. The officers from other agencies that remain in D.C. amid continued protests are now less numerous and, thus, less safe. Our department now has a stain on its reputation throughout the region because we backed out of a commitment at an incredibly challenging time.
The Arlington Community stands to suffer, as well. Should we ever be in a position where we need help from an adjoining jurisdiction, we are now less likely to receive it. That situation could come in the form of a protest or a riot. It also could come in the form of recovery from a natural disaster or an active shooter. The reality is we never will be able to plan for all of the situations in which we might need help, but it sure would be nice to know other agencies are ready and willing to assist at a moment’s notice should we make the request. That’s why mutual aid agreements exist.
For anyone who is of the opinion that ACPD officers should not be involved in the particular protests going on right now in the District at all, we respect your viewpoint. But please consider that especially right now, everyone is searching for answers. And one solution of the many that are needed is to rely more heavily on police officers that are intelligent, level-headed, compassionate, and fair. ACPD takes great lengths to hire and retain police officers of the highest quality. If there are going to be police officers monitoring a protest and attempting to ensure the safety of all involved parties, ACPD employs the type of officer you would want involved in such an undertaking.
The County Board did not appear to take any of that into consideration last night before making its mandate. What follows is what actually transpired last night leading up to the County Board’s hasty decision:
Members of ACPD’s Civil Disturbance Unit and SWAT teams were integrated with members of similar teams from U.S. Park Police and other agencies. On Sunday, May 31, protesters overran a fence barrier that was attempting to
protect a park near the White House. Protesters then set two different fires, one of which ultimately caused a nearby church to burn.
The CDU teams were told on Monday, June 1, that their mission was to clear the roadways near that park of protesters so that construction could begin on non-scalable fencing that would prevent further destruction of the park and surrounding buildings. One of the objectives was to relocate the protesters so that they could continue protesting in another area while the construction took place, not to disband and disburse the crowd altogether.
The timing of what ultimately took place was unfortunate. As the CDU teams were finishing that task, President Trump was escorted through the area that had just been cleared. The leadership of the CDU teams had not been made aware that President Trump was going to come out when he did or take the path he took. Clearing a path for him was never a designated objective for the CDU teams clearing those roadways.
Throughout that experience, protesters threw bricks and bottles at the CDU teams. Arlington officers were pushed and shoved and kicked and hit. But they continued on with their task of relocating the protesters so that they could protest elsewhere, and they completed their task without losing their composure. No ACPD unit deployed tear gas while in the District. ACPD units did deploy safe smoke and pepper balls that were targeted at particular individuals identified as needing to be detained.
We respect the right to protest, but part of our job is ensuring that such protests are done in a manner and location that is safe for the protesters and for us.
In the hours since the ACPD contingent was removed from the District, several false accusations have been lobbied. For example, social media was abuzz with video of a police officer in CDU gear using his shield to strike a protester who was backing away from the officer. It was alleged that said officer was from the ACPD. That allegation was and remains false.
We understand that there will be some who view ACPD as guilty by association. We understand that there will be some who believe it is just that ACPD was cast in a negative light because our uniform bears resemblance to the officers from other jurisdictions that we were working alongside. Again, we hear and feel your anger and frustration.
And we are sorry. We are sorry it has come to this. But we are resolved to continue serving this community as best we can. We are resolved to working with you to address the problems you see. We are resolved to wade through the politics of this moment with you and to rise above it together.
— The ACOP Board