Arlington, VA

After previously announcing his intention to retire by the end of the year, Arlington County Police Chief M. Jay Farr is now making it official.

Farr announced today that he will retire just before Labor Day, on Friday, Sept. 4.

“It has been an honor and privilege to serve the residents, businesses, and visitors of Arlington County,” Farr said in a press release this morning. “I am incredibly proud of our officers and their efforts to maintain a high level of public safety across our community.”

Farr was named police chief in May 2015. He has presided over a department that has largely kept crime levels and allegations of police misconduct low, despite recruitment challenges, population growth and tight budgets.

More recently, however, the department has seen an uptick in crime, an increase in complaints about police conduct, and calls for police reform amid local and national protests.

The County has convened a new “Police Practices Group” to “ensure that the Arlington County Police Department is current with policing best practices and continue to build trust between our police and the community.” The group is expected to start meeting in August.

Arlington is launching a national recruitment effort, with a goal of hiring a new police chief, either in late December or in 2021.

The full County press release about Farr’s retirement is below.

Police Chief Murray “Jay” Farr announced that he would retire on September 4th, after serving in the Arlington County Police Department for 30 years. Chief Farr has provided leadership as Arlington’s Chief of Police since May of 2015.  During his time as Chief, he has focused on community engagement, transportation safety, and crime prevention & control.  Chief Farr also launched the Arlington Restaurant Initiative, a partnership between the County, businesses and the community to offer a safe destination for nightlife and entertainment.  “It has been an honor and privilege to serve the residents, businesses, and visitors of Arlington County”, stated Chief Farr. “I am incredibly proud of our officers and their efforts to maintain a high level of public safety across our community.”

County Manager Mark Schwartz noted that “Chief Farr has provided outstanding leadership and has been instrumental in advancing community policing across Arlington County.”

In addition to his role as Chief of Police, he served in a variety of positions in the Arlington Police Department, including assignments as, Deputy Chief of Police for Systems Management, Operations, and Criminal Investigations. He also served as Arlington County Acting Deputy County Manager. He has also been an active member of the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments, serving as the Chair of the Police Chief Committee.

“On behalf of all County Board members, I want to thank Chief Farr for his years of exemplary service in one of the toughest jobs, Chief of Police. Jay has guided our police force into 21st Century community policing”, noted County Board Chair Libby Garvey.  “He has made ACPD one of the most respected police departments in the region and positioned us well to work with our community as we transition into the next era of policing and public safety that makes everyone feel safe.”

Prior to joining the ACPD in 1990, Chief Farr worked with the Naval Criminal Investigative Service where he conducted complex criminal investigations concerning fraud against the United States government. He is also a U.S. Marine veteran, where he served with the Presidential helicopter unit.

Chief Farr earned both Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees from George Mason University. He has participated in advanced educational programs at the Naval Post Graduate School Center for Defense and Homeland Security, the FBI National Academy, and the Senior Institute for Police Management, a collaborative program with Boston University and the John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University.  Chief Farr serves as an Adjunct Professor at George Mason University, where he teaches a curriculum of criminal justice and emergency management for law enforcement.  He is also a graduate of Leadership Arlington

National Recruitment for New Police Chief

The Arlington County Manager will be launching a national recruitment effort for a new Chief of Police this fall.  Initial steps will seek input from the community and there will be no final decision until sometime after the work of the newly formed Police Practice Group (PPG) is completed in December.

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(Updated at 2 p.m.) A newly-formed group is calling for a sweeping set of police reforms in Arlington, including cutting the police department budget by 10%.

Arlington for Justice, whose founding steering committee members include Arlington’s top public defender and a prominent local Black Lives Matter organizer, published an open letter to the Arlington County Board over the weekend.

Among other things, the letter calls for:

  • Reallocating “at least 10%” of the Arlington County’s Police Department’s $74 million annual budget, then freezing the budget for five years
  • Using the budget savings to fund pre-arrest diversion programs, mental health services and addiction treatment
  • Removing School Resource Officers from schools
  • Require continuous use of body cameras and dashboard cameras by ACPD
  • Make the disciplinary history of officers publicly accessible
  • Establishment of a “Justice Transformation Commission… to manage the implementation of these recommendations”

The letter also calls for ACPD to conduct a national search for a new police chief “who is committed to justice system transformation, eliminating bias, and implementing new methods of policing.” A police spokeswoman confirmed to ARLnow that current chief M. Jay Farr “will be retiring from his position at the end of 2020,” as stated in the latter.

On Friday, County Board member Christian Dorsey appeared on WAMU’s Politics Hour with Kojo Nnamdi and discussed the police reform movement, which has received momentum locally after ARLnow broke the news of Arlington officers in riot gear assisting U.S. Park Police near the White House. (The officers were quickly pulled out of D.C. after helping to clear the way for a presidential photo in front of a church.)

“We’re getting a lot of letters from people with the defund the police calls,” Dorsey said. “I will just note that the budget for the police department over the last eight, nine years has risen only slightly higher than the rate of inflation. And, you know, of the 74 million, most of it, all but about 7.5 million, is tied to personnel [and a] substantial amount of that is devoted to community policing efforts.”

“So, when it comes to what you defund, I think you first look at any tactical weapons and gear that are not necessary to meet your police obligations, and we don’t have a lot of that in Arlington,” Dorsey continued. “We have very much looked on an annual basis to make sure we’re not prioritizing the spending on weapons and toys and things like that that create militarized police forces.”

Dorsey added, in response to a question from co-host Tom Sherwood, that calls to defund the police “will be weaponized” politically against Democrats.

“Let’s rethink policing, let’s restructure it and let’s take any savings and reinvest it in people,” he said. “That, unfortunately, is a little bit longer than defund the police. So, we’ve got this catchall slogan which will be weaponized by other folks. And I think that’s something that people need to be very wary about.”

More on the group and the reforms it is seeking is below, in a press release.

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(Updated 6/8/20) 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. While Farr did not say there was a explicit ban on chokeholds or strangleholds — like the ban currently being considered by the Minneapolis Police Department following the killing of George Floyd at the hands of four Minneapolis officers — Farr said police are not allowed to obstruct or block any airways.

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 law enforcement officials are launching a program to help people with addictions get help without jail time.

Operation Safe Station” allows the Office of the Magistrate to waive charges on people with an addiction who turn themselves and their drugs in, and ask for help.

“Forgoing a prosecution and connecting individuals to treatment professionals is a first step in fighting this pernicious epidemic,” said Commonwealth’s Attorney Theo Stamos in a statement Tuesday.

The program is the latest effort combatting the opioid crisis after the county saw a 245 percent increase in patients seeking treatment for opioid addiction between 2015 and 2017.

Operation Safe Station will refer participating people to “support groups, outpatient office based opioid treatment programs, Methadone programs, and when appropriate, residential treatment” per the description on the county’s website.

The program is a joint creation of the Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office, Arlington County Police, and Arlington’s Dept. of Human Services (DHS).

In a Tuesday press release, Chief of Police Jay Farr, DHS Director Anita Friedman, and Sheriff Beth Arthur praised Operation Safe Station for “removing barriers” preventing people from seeking help with their addictions.

However, the program does not accept people who:

  • Have outstanding arrest warrants
  • Have been convicted of giving, selling, or distributing drugs, or convicted of doing so with the intent to manufacture
  • Are under 18 years old and don’t have a guardian with them
  • Are determined to be a threat to program staff by police

Those who do not meet these criteria still face arrest if they turn themselves in with controlled substances at the Magistrate’s Office.

Operation Safe Station participants must also agree to a search and sign an agreement committing themselves to the program.

The program’s announcement comes several months into Commonwealth’s Attorney Theo Stamos’ campaign for re-election. Challenger Parisa Tafti has criticized the prosecutor for being slow to implement criminal justice reform measures like eliminating cash bail.

Stamos has defended her record earlier this week by referencing success of her “Second Chance” program she says diverted 500 minors struggling with addict from court since its start in 2011 as well as a Drug Court program.

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Morning Notes

Menorah Lighting in Clarendon Tonight — “Arlington Police Chief Jay Farr will light the menorah at a Chanukah Festival of Lights ceremony, to be held on Wednesday, Dec. 5 at 6 p.m. at Clarendon Central Park.” [InsideNova]

County Spraying Brine on Roads — Ahead of a possible snowstorm this weekend, the odds of which are increasing, Arlington County is applying brine to some local roadways. [Twitter]

Most of Va. Feeling Good About HQ2 — “There may be some angst in Arlington over Amazon.com Inc.’s impending entrance to the market, but overall, the state is feeling good about HQ2.” [Washington Business Journal]

Nearby: Bush 41’s Favorite Chinese Restaurant — “In a non-descript Falls Church strip mall, a culinary secret: the Peking Gourmet Inn, where George H.W. Bush dined with his family more than a hundred times over the last thirty years. The restaurant even had plaques for the president and his wife Barbara on two of their chairs, and a window with bullet-proof glass to protect Bush as he dined at a semi-private table with Secret Service only feet away.” [WJLA]

Photo courtesy Andrew Clegg

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Morning Notes

Army-Navy Country Club Employee Alleges Supervisor Used Racial Slurs — A former golf cart attendant at the club claims that one of his bosses repeatedly used racist language to refer to him and former President Barack Obama. It seems the supervisor has been fired, and the club’s employees are receiving sensitivity training. [Falls Church News-Press]

Crystal City Hotel to Host Anti-Muslim Group’s Conference — ACT for America will hold its annual gathering at the Crystal City Hyatt this fall. The group has alleged that Muslims can’t be loyal citizens of the United States and held “anti-Sharia” marches across the country, prompting Muslim groups to call on the hotel to abandon the event. [DCist]

Man Accused of Indecent Exposures Around Rosslyn Previously Convicted in Alexandria — County police arrested Fairfax County resident Santiago Rodriquez Campos on indecent exposure charges Monday, and it seems he’s been convicted on similar charges in the past. Immigration officials also believe he entered the country illegally. [WJLA]

Arlington Police Chief Reviews Restructuring — Chief Jay Farr says all has largely gone smoothly with the county’s restructuring of the department to cope with a staffing crunch, which kicked off in May. The county even has its largest class of recruits ever currently in training. [Arlington Connection]

County First Responders Make a Special Delivery — Arlington medics were hoping to get an expecting mother to a D.C. hospital, but her baby had other plans. They made it to the Virginia Hospital Center in the nick of time. [Twitter]

Flickr pool photo by ksrjghkegkdhgkk

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Seven Arlington County police officers have died in the line of duty over the last 83 years, and county law enforcement and civic leaders took a few moments to remember their sacrifice Friday (May 11).

The county held its annual observance of Peace Officers Memorial Day at the Arlington County Justice Center Plaza (1425 N. Courthouse Road), inviting dozens of law enforcement officers and Arlington leaders to pay tribute to fallen officers across the country.

Participants in the ceremony offered wreaths and roses at the county’s monument to its officers who have died on the job, with a special observance for Corporal Harvey Snook, who died of cancer he contracted while working in recovery efforts at the Pentagon in the wake of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. The son of Officer George Pomraning, who was shot to death while bringing a prisoner to jail on Sept. 2, 1973, also attended the ceremony.

County Police Chief M. Jay Farr urged attendees to consider what more they can do to prevent the killing of police, putting a particular focus on one of the leading causes of line of duty deaths: gun violence.

“Many officers who are shot are dealing with people who are not of sound mind,” Farr said. “We all need to think about what we can do to address this growing national mental health crisis.”

Yet Craig Floyd, CEO of the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund, suggested that the country as a whole was making some progress in that area. He pointed out that the 129 officers to died on the job in 2017 represented the second-smallest figure since 1959.

“We’ve done a lot, but we have a long way to go,” Floyd said.

The county ceremony coincides with the start of National Police Week, a series of events around D.C. from May 13-19 to honor fallen officers. A full schedule of events is available online.

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Arlington County Police will soon spend less time handing out traffic tickets, investigating minor offenses and attending community events, as the department moves ahead with a major restructuring effort.

The department announced Tuesday that it plans to start re-allocating its resources on Sunday (May 13) in order to compensate for the county’s struggles in hiring enough officers.

Police Chief M. Jay Farr first revealed some of these restructuring plans in an internal memo this February, noting that the department was 50 officers short of the 370 it’s authorized to employ to maintain current service levels. In a video released by the department Tuesday to detail the coming changes, Farr stressed that county police are “not moving away from the core, fundamental agreements we have with the community” and won’t be making any cuts to services like 911 response or investigations of serious crimes.

Farr did say, however, that the department will likely need to divert some of its officers away from traffic enforcement efforts — including the investigation of traffic-related complaints from residents — and investigations of smaller crimes, such as larcenies, minor hit and runs and other misdemeanors.

“We are not abandoning how we police,” Farr said. “We’re trimming it for a while, and we intend to do this on a temporary basis.”

Farr stressed that each incident’s “solvability factor” will impact just how quickly the department pursues investigations of more minor offenses, with violent crimes taking priority. He added that his officers might not be able to devote quite as much time to avoiding arrests related to public drunkenness in neighborhoods like Clarendon, where police have generally favored preventing major disruptions over simply arresting every person they can.

“We want to maintain that contact with the community and we don’t want the arrests to be the solution, but that requires people,” Farr said. “It actually requires more effort in prevention work and coordinated efforts with our partners.”

Additionally, Farr plans to consolidate the department’s outreach efforts into a single “community resources section.” The department previously divided Arlington into three “districts,” with officers assigned to each one to address community concerns.

That means county officers will no longer attend regular meetings with each civic association throughout Arlington; rather, Farr says the department will organize quarterly meetings for communities in the northern and southern halves of the county, respectively. Farr is also calling off the department’s annual block party, and he plans to reduce the frequency of other outreach events like “Coffee with a Cop.”

“It’ll be a little less contact, a little less people,” Farr said.

Farr stressed that the department is “very aggressively” pursuing new recruits to ensure that these changes don’t become permanent — notably, the County Board recently agreed to increase police salaries in its new budget, following persistent complaints by the police union that pay rates in the county helped precipitate the current staffing squeeze.

But Farr also noted that the new hires will take time to train and get out on the streets, so he’s asking for patience as these changes take effect.

“We’re going to keep exploring this over the next few months,” Farr said. “We’re going to see where we go with it, we’re going to keep working on it.”

File photo

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Twelve officers from the Arlington County Police Department will be deployed to Puerto Rico to help the island recover from Hurricane Maria.

The officers will deploy in three staggered teams from tomorrow (Friday, November 10) until December 18. The teams will spend 16 days each in Puerto Rico.

Puerto Rico requested assistance through the Emergency Management Assistance Compact, which is the national emergency management mutual aid system that facilitates state-to-state disaster assistance.

“I am proud that our officers are willing to dedicate their time to provide the citizens of Puerto Rico with an added sense of security in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria,” Police Chief Jay Farr said in a statement. “Our officers take an oath to serve and protect and their willingness to deploy shows their commitment and dedication, not just to the Arlington County community, but to citizens everywhere.”

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With schools set to welcome students for the new year this coming Tuesday, Arlington Public Schools and the Arlington County Police Department are urging everyone to stay safe on the roads.

Police will conduct highly visible traffic enforcement around county schools starting that day, while electronic message boards placed next to the roads will remind everyone of the start of school.

To ensure everyone’s safety, police reminded drivers to:

  • Obey speed limits which may change during school zone times.
  • Avoid distracted driving and keep your attention on the road.
  • Watch for students walking and riding bikes to school.
  • Don’t pass a stopped school bus loading or unloading passengers.
    • On a two-lane road, vehicles traveling in both directions must stop.
    • On a multi-lane paved across road, vehicles traveling in both directions must stop.
    • On a divided highway, vehicles behind the bus must stop. Vehicles traveling in the opposite direction may proceed with caution.
  • Have all vehicle occupants wear their seat belts.

Students, bicyclists, and pedestrians are reminded to:

  • Cross the street at marked crosswalks and never against a red light.
  • Look before you cross and follow the direction of school crossing guards.
  • Always walk on designated sidewalks or paths, never along the side of a road.

And for general safety, students and parents are reminded to:

  • Ensure students know their address and phone number.
  • Be aware of your surroundings.
  • Whenever possible, walk or bike with another person. Stay in well-lit areas.
  • Limit the use of devices that may distract you.
  • Avoid engaging with or answering questions from strangers.
  • If something occurs that makes you feel unsafe, report the incident immediately to an adult such as a parent, guardian, principal, teacher or school resource officer.
  • Parents and guardians are encouraged to roleplay possible situations with students and discuss personal safety and awareness tips.

In a video (below) released by APS, Superintendent Patrick Murphy, Police Chief Jay Farr and School Resource Officer supervisor Lt. Susan Noack, the three urge being safe, like staying within speed limits, avoiding distracted driving and looking out for students on bicycles or on foot.

The trio also encouraged parents practice looking both ways at crosswalks before crossing the street, as well as having a buddy to walk with.

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Morning Notes

Air Force Memorial and a bus stop along Columbia Pike (Flickr pool photo by David Giambarresi)

More on Texas Jack’s BBQ — Texas Jack’s Barbecue, which is replacing the former Tallula and EatBar in Lyon Park, will be helmed by a pair of Hill Country BBQ vets. The 145-seat restaurant will also have a 26-seat patio. It will serve meats that are smoked on site and plans to remain open until 2 a.m. seven days a week. [Washingtonian]

CEO’s $3.7 Million Rosslyn Condo — Gracia Martore, the former CEO of Gannett and current CEO of the newspaper company’s broadcast and digital spinoff, Tegna, has purchased a condo in Rosslyn for $3.65 million. The 4,447 square foot condo in Turnberry Tower (1881 N. Nash Street) features a 900 square foot outdoor balcony with sweeping views of D.C. [Washington Business Journal]

Police Chief Prioritizes Community Engagement — New Arlington Police Chief Jay Farr says he will make community engagement one of his top priorities. Farr plans to “realign how we do business a little bit,” adding more interaction with residents, he told the local Kiwanis Club. [InsideNova]

Arlington Arts Center Director Departs — Stefanie Fedor, executive director of the Arlington Arts Center, is leaving her position next month to head the Visual Arts Center of Richmond. AAC’s Director of Exhibitions will take over as Acting Executive Director while the organization’s board searches for Fedor’s permanent replacement. [Patch]

Rosslyn Employer Leaving for D.C. — The American Psychiatric Association, currently based at 1000 Wilson Blvd in Rosslyn, has signed a lease at The Wharf project on the Southwest D.C. waterfront. The association has about 250 employees. It is expected to move in 2017. [Washington Business Journal]

Flickr pool photo by David Giambarresi

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