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Morning Notes

New signage on Crystal Drive warning drivers to not block vehicle or bike lanes (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

Flyover This MorningUpdated at 9:15 a.m. — “The US Air Force reports 2 flyovers in the NCR consisting of 4 military aircrafts (in both flyovers) at Arlington National Cemetery today, July 14… at 9:55AM and 11:43AM.” [PoPville]

Arlington Again No. 1 ‘Digital County’ — “Arlington County continues to be a national leader in technology, once again being recognized as the No. 1 Digital County by the Center for Digital Government and the National Association of Counties. The 2022 award marks the fifth time that Arlington has received the top honor in the 150,000-249,999-population category.” [Arlington County]

County Seeking Funding for Crash-Prone Ramp — “Arlington County officials are slated to apply for $10 million in federal funding to improve an interchange at Arlington Boulevard and Washington Boulevard, while seeking a similar amount from the state government as a backstop in case the federal cash never materializes. The proposal aims to reconfigure two existing interchange ramps and create a straighter, two-directional ramp with signalization.” [Sun Gazette]

Another Group Backs ‘Missing Middle’ — “Count Habitat for Humanity on board with the Arlington government’s Missing Middle housing proposal. The proposed zoning change ‘is not the answer to the affordability crisis, but it is one answer, that the county [government] could and should implement,’ John Smoot, co-president and CEO of the organization’s D.C./Northern Virginia chapter, said in a recent letter to County Board members.” [Sun Gazette]

Jewelry Robbery on the Pike — “Columbia Pike at S. Four Mile Run Drive. At approximately 1:50 a.m. on July 13, police were dispatched to the report of a robbery by force. Upon arrival, officers made contact with the victim who stated he and the witness were in a parking lot when the unknown male suspect approached them. The suspect became confrontational and a verbal dispute occurred during which the suspect implied he had a weapon. The suspect then forcibly removed the victim’s necklace and fled the scene of foot. The witness recovered the chain of the necklace from the suspect as he fled.” [ACPD]

Prosecutor: Long Sentences Not Always the Answer — From Commonwealth’s Attorney Parisa Dehghani-Tafti: “I understand the easy answer is to simply say: keep people locked up for as long as possible because if they’re locked up they can’t commit any crime. But, what about if doing so increases the chance they will reoffend once released, thereby decreasing public safety?” [Twitter]

Local Neighborhood Profiled — “Madison Manor is composed primarily of brick ramblers and ranchers, some with recent additions, interspersed with larger contemporary homes. Most of the original homes maintain the red brick facade; a few have been painted white or partially covered with siding.” [Washington Post]

Two Charged in Rare Liquor Scheme — “In the search for hard-to-find bottles of bourbon at Virginia ABC stores, some liquor enthusiasts have been worried about leaks of a more serious kind… The conspiracy theories apparently weren’t wrong. An ABC investigation led to four felony indictments against two men who were arrested last month and charged with computer trespass and embezzling ABC’s inventory list.” [Virginia Mercury]

It’s Thursday — Partly cloudy throughout the day. High of 87 and low of 72. Sunrise at 5:56 am and sunset at 8:35 pm. [Weather.gov]

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Morning Notes

Swimming pool in May, ready for the new season (Flickr pool photo by John Sonderman)

Restorative Justice Coming to Schools — “Restorative Arlington has partnered with Arlington Public Schools (APS) to support Restorative Justice in Education. Restorative Arlington has allocated over $140,000 to provide direct services to APS, including services for students who have experienced harm as well as restorative justice training for staff and additional resources.” [Arlington Public Schools]

Candidate Addresses Achievement Gap —  “The county’s likely next School Board member has become the latest to try and enunciate ways to address [the academic-achievement gap]. The gap is significant and ‘has gotten worse’ over the pandemic era, candidate Bethany Sutton acknowledged during a May 14 forum sponsored by the Blue Families caucus of the Arlington County Democratic Committee.” [Sun Gazette]

Fatal Crash Near Arlington Border — “Officers responded at 2:16 a.m. to the 3700 block of S. George Mason Drive. Preliminarily, detectives from our Crash Reconstruction Unit determined the driver of a 2016 Volkswagen Jetta was travelling southbound on S. George Mason Drive attempting to turn left into Skyline Plaza. The driver of a 2018 Honda Accord was travelling northbound on S. George Mason Drive and struck the Jetta on the passenger side. Initially, both occupants of the Accord ran from the scene.” [Fairfax County Police]

It’s Friday — Rain and storms throughout much of the day. High of 73 and low of 67. Sunrise at 5:49 am and sunset at 8:26 pm. [Weather.gov]

Flickr pool photo by John Sonderman

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Arlington County Courthouse (staff photo by Matt Blitz)

A new restorative justice program launched last week in Arlington, aimed at diverting those under the age of 26 from the criminal justice system.

The “Heart of Safety” program, part of the county’s Restorative Arlington initiative, held its first training session early last week. The program’s goal is to find alternatives to criminal prosecution for certain misdemeanor and felony crimes committed by young adults.

Through a conferencing process managed by trained professionals and facilitators, it will allow both the accused and the victim or victims a choice in how to best deal with the crime committed. The main factor for eligibility is the participants’ commitment to the process, as opposed to determining eligibility based solely on the crime involved.

In practice, however, leaders tell ARLnow that initially “Heart of Safety” will likely focus on certain types of crime to start.

“The determining factor for eligibility is participant commitment to the process,” Kimiko Lighty, Restorative Arlington executive director, wrote to ARLnow in an email. “This program is voluntary at every stage so the engagement of the parties most directly affected by the harm, the person harmed and the person responsible for harm, is the determining factor NOT the type of harm.”

“Initially we will likely focus on assault and battery and grand larceny, as the data mapping with Impact Justice determined that those are the charges with the largest racial and [ethnic] disparities,” she continued. “We believe families are eager for an alternative to traditional criminal prosecution that can maintain public safety by holding young people accountable without saddling their future with a criminal record,.”

The Memorandum of Understanding for “Heart of Safety” was first signed in February by Arlington’s top prosecutor, Commonwealth’s Attorney Parisa Dehghani-Tafti, who campaigned in 2019 on creating a restorative justice program of this nature. The program is being aided by $340,000 in federal funding from the U.S. Justice Department.

In attendance at the training session along with Restorative Arlington leaders were personnel from the Office of the Commonwealth’s Attorney and members of the Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court Services Unit.

The first session “offered information, discussion, and trust building between the two county offices and Restorative Arlington,” according to the press release.

Lighty said the session also dealt with “how restorative justice allows survivors to participate in ways traditional systems do not, how it reduces recidivism in ways that traditional systems do not, and how it provides young people the tools to handle conflict in ways that traditional systems do not.”

The second training session will be held this summer, but an exact date has yet to be finalized.

Additionally, an agreement that would refer Arlington Public Schools students directly to the program is still be worked on. It’s currently in the draft stage and it should be finalized soon, says Lighty.

It has taken more than two years for the promised program to get up and running. Dehghani-Tafti tells ARLnow that a lot of studying, planning, and designing were needed prior to launching something that’s never been done in the county. That includes working with prior victims of crime and those who were formerly incarcerated, to help establish “Heart of Safety” policies and procedures.

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An Arlington County police car with lights flashing (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

(Updated at 9:40 p.m.) The man who was arrested on Sunday for robbery and carjacking after an inter-jurisdiction car chase on I-395 was awaiting trial in Fairfax County for stealing a car, court records show.

Laysohn Jones, 21, of Suitland, Maryland, had a hearing date set for May 2 for the auto theft charge, as well as a preliminary hearing for a failure to appear and charges for driving without a license and eluding police. He had been “released on recognizance,” according to court records, or released without bail when he allegedly committed the crime.

And two weeks ago, a man who has committed a slew of petty thefts over the last five years — from the Springfield Mall, Tysons Corner Center, and a CVS pharmacy and Macy’s in Pentagon City — was arrested on nearly a half-dozen charges.

Ronald D. Thomas, 24, is now being held without bond in the Arlington County Detention Facility for his most recent alleged crimes — spitting on an officer, grand larceny, petit larceny, trespassing and identify theft — as well as an outstanding warrant from Fairfax County for grand larceny. Court records indicate he also had a felony second-degree assault charge from Maryland and a misdemeanor assault charge in D.C.

These cases have some blaming recent bail reforms, championed by many prosecutors who were elected on pledges to reform the criminal justice system.

“Repeat criminals are crossing jurisdictional lines and facing no consequences in first, second and third jurisdictions due to progressive policies like abolishing bail,” said Sean Kennedy, a spokesman for Virginians for Safe Communities, an organization that launched efforts last year to unseat the Commonwealth’s Attorneys for Fairfax, Loudoun and Arlington counties.

“They go on to commit more crime elsewhere and those jurisdictions don’t understand their full criminal history because the same prosecutors have downgraded serious charges to light misdemeanors,” he continued. “More and more people are suffering because of that.”

Those who champion reforms to the criminal justice system, however, say repeat offense cases like these have long existed and systems like jail and bail did not deter people from offending over and over again. They add that these policies did nothing to solve underlying problems driving the criminal behavior, such as drug addiction and unstable housing.

“The inclination is, ‘We need to send him to jail for longer.’ We tried that before — that doesn’t work either,” said Arlington’s Chief Public Defender Brad Haywood.

He refuted the idea that there is a “progressive prosecution angle” at work, referencing the ongoing political tug-of-war between reform-minded prosecutors like Arlington County Commonwealth’s Attorney Parisa Dehghani-Tafti, whose changes have prompted some backlash, and those who advocate for more stringent prosecution and punishment.

“This is a problem that has been an issue for decades in the U.S.,” Haywood said. “This is an issue, very broadly, with the criminal justice system.”

Bond reforms 

Eliminating cash bail was a campaign promise of both Dehghani-Tafti, whose office does not ask for cash bail, and her counterpart in Fairfax, Steve Descano, who formally eliminated cash bail in 2020.

In the case of the carjacking, Randall Mason, the president of the Arlington Coalition of Police, said Fairfax County’s release of the alleged carjacker put officers, the driver and the public at risk of injury.

“He went out and did the same thing again, and it put Arlington officers at risk because pursuits are inherently dangerous,” Mason said. “Luckily everyone was safe, and no citizens injured.”

Police are concerned about and frustrated by the pattern of people who are arrested for serious offenses and released without bond, Mason said.

Dehghani-Tafti countered that her office does seek to hold people deemed to be dangerous or a flight risk.

“It’s the danger you pose, not whether or not you have cash, that should control whether you are released pre-trial or not,” she said.

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Arlington County has created a new youth program aimed at diverting young people who commit crimes from the criminal justice system.

The program, called “Heart of Safety,” is the first county program established to find alternatives to prosecution in certain misdemeanor and felony cases committed by juveniles and young adults, according to a press release from the Office of the Commonwealth’s Attorney.

Parisa Dehghani-Tafti, the top prosecutor for Arlington and the City of Falls Church, announced today (Tuesday) that she signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Arlington Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court Services Unit and a county initiative called Restorative Arlington to found Heart of Safety.

Restorative Arlington began in 2020 to introduce to the public schools system, legal system and community new ways of holding people accountable for their crimes without putting them through the court process.

The founders of Heart of Safety say it will give victims a say in what they need to feel that justice has been served, while holding those who committed the crime accountable and reducing future crimes in the long run.

“Heart of Safety is about survivors’ rights, youth rehabilitation, and crime prevention; for survivors, it’s the peace of mind of taking charge of their recovery; for young people, it’s a second chance to make right what they did wrong; and for the community, it’s an investment in crime prevention,” said Dehghani-Tafti, who campaigned on a justice reform platform in 2019.

People who commit crimes and victims can volunteer to resolve their case through a conferencing process. Either the victim or the person who committed the crime must be 26 or younger when the incident took place to participate.

Cases have to be identified and deemed appropriate for the conferencing process, which is overseen by a trained facilitator. This person talks with both parties to listen to their experiences, understand what they need and determine if they should meet. If so, the facilitator brings the participants together to draft a restoration plan and follows up with them later to ensure they completed the plan and are satisfied with the outcome.

If this process doesn’t resolve the case, the Commonwealth’s Attorney can open a prosecution case.

“Heart of Safety embodies the priorities and interests of our community and is in full alignment with best practices in restorative justice diversion,” Restorative Arlington Executive Director Kimiko Lighty said. “We are grateful to be able to offer this long-awaited option for people who have been harmed in our community.”

Restorative Arlington worked with volunteers — victims of crimes, formerly incarcerated persons, teens and young adults — over the course of two years to establish Heart of Safety, according to the county.

Leaders of Restorative Arlington, meanwhile, are working with Arlington Public Schools to draft an agreement that would allow schools to refer students directly to Heart of Safety. The county says this will allow schools to hold students accountable for wrongdoing while keeping them out of the criminal justice system.

“Restorative Arlington’s Heart of Safety program will provide a great new option for diverting some youth from the traditional court process,” said Earl Conklin, Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court Services Unit Director. “It is an alternative model that has proven successful for both the youth and those who have been harmed.”

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Morning Notes

Soccer practice at Long Bridge Park (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

New Organ Debuts Tomorrow — “The new organ [at St. George’s Episcopal Church in Virginia Square] cost $1.2 million… Opus 28 arrived in Arlington on Oct. 3, 2021. For three weeks, Pasi put together the 500,000 parts that constitute it. He spent the next two months ‘voicing’ the organ: doing the painstaking adjustments necessary to make everything sound just right.” [Washington Post]

Reminder: Pizza Boxes Can Be Composted — From Arlington’s Dept. of Environmental Services: “There’s No ‘I’ in Food Scraps: Arlington viewers of ‘The Big Game’ can give 110% and go all in in the green curbside cart: pizza crusts and boxes, wing bones and greasy napkins. You won’t be denied.” [Twitter]

County Helping With Museum Renovations — “As efforts begin to renovate its museum, the Arlington Historical Society is working to embrace close collaboration where possible with the Arlington County government. Whether that will turn into a financial partnership remains to be seen, but county staff will be providing their knowledge to help the renovation move ahead.” [Sun Gazette]

Public Defender Pay Bill Fails — “A measure to equalize pay between staff of Virginia prosecutors and those working in public-defender’s offices died in a House of Delegates subcommittee. The measure, patroned by Del. Alfsono Lopez (D-Arlington-Fairfax), would have required localities that supplement the compensation of staff in its office of commonwealth’s attorney beyond state minimums to do the same for staff of a public defender’s office, if a locality has one.” [Sun Gazette]

Nearby: Scammers Impersonating Police — “Officers have received reports from community members who stated that callers contact them claiming to be members of a police department or sheriff’s department. The law enforcement impersonator may… tell the community member they missed a court appearance or jury duty [and] state they need to send money or a warrant will be issued for their arrest or they may turn themselves in to jail.” [City of Falls Church]

Snow Possible This Weekend — “Light to moderate snow could fall in the D.C. area on Super Bowl Sunday. But it’s still not clear whether it will snow hard enough or be cold enough for it to amount to much and have serious effects on the region.” [Capital Weather Gang]

It’s Thursday — Sunny, with a high near 55 today, and wind gusts as high as 21 mph. Sunrise at 7:04 a.m. and sunset at 5:40 p.m. Sunny again tomorrow, with a high near 57 and wind gusts as high as 22 mph. [Weather.gov]

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Arlington’s top prosecutor just got a boost from the U.S. Department of Justice to continue pursuing criminal justice reforms.

The Bureau of Justice Assistance awarded $340,000 to the Office of the Commonwealth’s Attorney, led by Parisa Dehghani-Tafti. This is the maximum grant allowed through the bureau’s Innovative Prosecution Solutions program, according to a press release.

The $340,000 will fund two new positions, including one for someone trained in social work, the release said. It will support work to train facilitators in restorative practices — intended to reduce the length of incarcerations, at least in some cases, while also providing justice to the victim — and identify which D.C.-area restorative services and diversion programs produce the best public safety outcomes.

“It’s a game changer because it allows us to develop partnerships with diversion programs across the Metro area, for the first time, both in service of developing opportunities and reducing recidivism, incarceration, and racial disparities,” Dehghani-Tafti said.

The office will also hire a data expert and purchase software needed to analyze data about prosecutions, including how cases are resolved. Dehghani-Tafti campaigned on using data and evidence to drive criminal justice reform.

“It also gives us the capacity for evidence-based prosecution and evidence-based diversion decisions,” she said.

This grant will fund these positions and activities through June 2023, according to the release.

“This grant acknowledges and supports the work of local prosecutors trying to transform the criminal legal system,” said Dehghani-Tafti, who successfully ran on a criminal justice reform platform in 2019, in a statement.

Additional statements from the press release are below.

“I applaud the Commonwealth’s Attorney’s efforts and office for applying and obtaining funding under the DOJ’s FY 2021 Smart Prosecution–Innovative Prosecution Solutions Program,” stated Julius D. “J.D.” Spain, Sr., President Arlington Branch NAACP. “In efforts to focus on mediation and agreement rather than punishment, our community needs alternatives to traditional discipline. This additional funding will assist in developing effective strategies, enhancing our Restorative Arlington Program, and combating and prosecuting violent crime in Arlington.”

“Black Parents of Arlington commends the Commonwealth’s Attorney and her office for taking this important step to develop effective, economical, and innovative responses to crime within our jurisdiction,” said Whytni Kernodle, Co-Founder and President, Black Parents of Arlington. “These funds should help reduce rather than exacerbate racial disparities that are particularly harmful to young Black males, while helping to reduce crime and increase public safety for everyone in our community.”

“This funding will allow us to leverage the innovative and data driven work that Parisa’s office has been focused on since day one to increase efficiency, security and safety for our community,” said Kimiko Lighty, Coordinator, Restorative Arlington. “This grant award is an endorsement of the collaborative spirit that system partners here in Arlington have prioritized and we will all benefit from the investment in updated data systems and coordinative personnel.”

This year has also seen Dehghani-Tafti launch a wrongful convictions unit and partner with a national criminal justice organization to reduce race-based differences in prosecution by 20%.

At the same time, her tenure has seen some controversies. She has been the target of a recall effort, which cites increases in certain crimes such as carjackings — though the same data also shows a decrease in violent sex offenses and a relatively low homicide rate.

Additionally, there have been conflicts with judges over plea deals and dropping charges without an explanation for the record.

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2021 James B. Hunter Award Winners (via Arlington County)

Arlington’s Human Rights Commission is honoring four organizations and two individuals for their contributions to diversity and human rights over the past year.

Recipients include a seven-decade-old church in Arlington Ridge, the Arlington Branch of the NAACP and a community activist in the Halls Hill neighborhood.

A virtual celebration for the honorees will be held on Thursday, Dec. 9.

The James B. Hunter Human Rights Awards are given annually to individuals, community groups, non-profit organizations and businesses that best exemplify “outstanding achievement in the area of human rights and diversity made in Arlington County.”

The award is named after the former County Board member who championed the 1992 amendment to county law that prohibited discrimination based on sexual orientation. Hunter died in 1998 at the age of 58 due to cancer.

Now in its 22nd year, the 2021 James B. Hunter award winners are Advent Lutheran Church, Arlington Thrive, the Arlington branch of the NAACP, Offender Aid and Restoration, Aurora Highlands resident Les Garrison and Langston Citizens Association president Wilma Jones Killgo.

Advent Lutheran Church (ALC) is located in the Arlington Ridge neighborhood and was first established in the 1950s.

“ALC willingly puts on the mantle of servant leadership and continually answers the call to help those in need, advance diversity, and advocate for human rights on behalf of the residents of Arlington County,” the press release says about why the church is being honored.

Arlington Thrive provides residents in need same-day, emergency financial assistance. The organization has been on the forefront helping the most vulnerable during the pandemic, providing a “safety net” for those who lost their livelihoods.

This year’s award also recognizes the Arlington branch of the NAACP for its recent work advancing racial, economic justice and equality. The organization called on the county to investigate an inmate’s death at the county jail, to fix conditions inside of the Serrano Apartments on Columbia Pike, and to change the county’s previous logo depicting Arlington House, the former home of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee.

“The award is validation that our all-volunteer organization is bringing crucial social justice issues and impacting the forefront,” branch president JD Spain, Sr. tells ARLnow, while noting that there’s still much work to be done. “So we thank the committee for the award and look forward to joining hands to create a better future here in Arlington.”

Offender Aid and Restoration (OAR) is a five-decade-old nonprofit that provides a re-entry readiness program for those who have spent time at the county jail, amongst a host of other services.

“Racial equity and an authentic commitment to dismantling racism in Arlington flow through every aspect of how OAR operates — from service delivery to legislative advocacy to internal operations to community education and even to fundraising strategies,” said a press release about the awards.

Les Garrison of Aurora Hills is a long-time civic volunteer who worked to provide residents access to COVID-19 testing, vaccinations and food throughout the pandemic. His work to coordinate has been a “a beacon of selflessness and optimism for Arlington.”

Wilma Jones Killgo is a fourth-generation Arlingtonian who wrote a book about her childhood in Halls Hill, also known as High View Park. She’s a community activist, a fourth-term president of her civic association and a passionate voice for her neighborhood.

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Rep. Don Beyer recognizing Arlington first responders at a County Board meeting (via Arlington County)

Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.) swung by the Arlington County Board last week to recognize 60 local first responders who responded to the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol.

It’s the latest step in a complicated dance for the congressman, facing a new primary challenger, as Democrats nationwide grapple with how to balance public safety concerns with outcry over police killings and accusations of brutality.

One particular slogan from nationwide protests last year has divided Democrats.

“The ‘defund the police‘ slogan is one of the dumbest things I’ve ever heard,” Beyer told ARLnow, adding: “I do think it’s completely fair and appropriate to continue to look at ways of making policing more effective.”

The cry to cut police funding took center stage last year after the murder of George Floyd. Advocates say the slogan is part of efforts to shift resources away from heavily militarized police departments to housing, mental health programs and other services.

Beyer said police reform can include making how much departments spend to settle with victims of police brutality more transparent, which is part of the Cost of Police Misconduct Act. But generally, Beyer’s approach to police reform includes more carrots than sticks.

Part of that approach is evident in the Jabara-Heyer No Hate Act authored by Beyer, which offers grants to police departments for reporting hate crime statistics.

“Greatly strengthens reporting of hate crimes,” Beyer said. “Rather than punishing police for not collecting hate crime data, [the bill] gives them funding for doing it.”

Beyer said he supports the widespread use of body cameras, pushing to fund a pilot program in Alexandria and helping to ensure that U.S. Park Police are outfitted with body cameras after the shooting of Bijan Ghaisar. The congressman has been outspoken about seeking justice for Ghaisar’s family.

Beyer said he also believes in increased pay for police. Nationwide, police salaries have been increasing over the last few years. In Virginia, the mean income for police and sheriff’s patrol officers in 2020 was $60,190, though that doesn’t account for overtime.

“It’s about investing in the police to make them stronger and more effective, and part of that is increasing their incomes,” Beyer said. “There is strong research about the amount of education a police officer has and the likelihood of them being involved in police misconduct. What’s going to draw them? Better incomes.”

Beyer noted that members of the Capitol Police with whom he speaks regularly say they’re facing the same morale crisis that police departments are seeing nationwide, following outrage over a series of high-profile police shootings and violence. Last year, for instance, the Arlington County Police Department was called into D.C. to clear out protestors from Lafayette Square before they were recalled by county leadership.

“They’re really good people who are struggling right now,” Beyer said of the police force in general. “I read about the departures from police departments all over the country. That’s not sustainable. We have to make sure our police feel respected, and that includes independent citizen review. I was thrilled with Fairfax and now Alexandria set up independent citizen review. As we’ve seen too many times, it’s really hard to ask your peers to pass judgement on what you just did.”

The County Board voted last week to establish a new Community Oversight Board and Independent Policing Auditor, with subpoena powers, to investigate community complaints about police officers. The vote was criticized by the local NAACP for not going far enough in ensuring accountability.

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(Updated 05/25 at 1 p.m.) The Arlington County Board voted 4-1 last night (Tuesday) to consider establishing a Civilian Review Board for the Arlington County Police Department.

Now the county will advertise a draft ordinance that, if approved in the summer, would outline the roles and responsibilities of this review board. Board member Takis Karantonis dissented.

“As we discuss and debate this ordinance over the next two months, we must both recognize that our community has an interest in additional accountability and transparency related to law enforcement and respect the diligent efforts of our public safety personnel,” said Matt de Ferranti, Chair of the Arlington County Board, in a statement.

What the civilian review board would look like was discussed by the Police Practices Work Group over the last year, which in February presented myriad ways to reform the police department. Some of the powers it suggested the board should have are included in the ordinance.

As written, Arlington’s civilian review board would be able to receive complaints about police conduct, review the police chief’s disciplinary decisions, as well as review finished police investigations, data, policies and the ACPD budget. It would also be able to recommend policy changes and conduct hearings and community outreach.

But it would not have the ability to independently and concurrently investigate officers, which the PPG recommends but County Manager Mark Schwartz does not.

Karantonis said last night the proposed ordinance is deficient in many ways, particularly because the authority to independently investigate a police officer is not baked in. He supported deferring the motion.

“Not a single person who testified for the advertisement of the ordinance as submitted,” he said. “In my inbox, I don’t see a single email in support.”

Fifteen PPG participants, community members and advocates told the County Board to defer action so the ordinance could be rewritten to allow for independent investigations.

“The Black and brown community is telling you that we need a civilian review board with teeth,” said community member Wilma Jones.

Minneapolis’s weak review board allowed Derek Chauvin to remain an officer despite multiple complaints of misconduct before he killed George Floyd, said Michelle Woolley, of Arlington for Justice. Meanwhile, the review board in St Louis, unable to investigate police shootings concurrently with police, had to wait more than five years to evaluate 21 shootings.

Public defender Brad Haywood said in a letter to the county that review-only models found in Virginia Beach and Fairfax are seen as “rubber stamps for police internal affairs.”

“The review bodies rarely recommend corrective action, and so far as I know they have never brought about proactive measures to address broader institutional problems, such as racial disparities in traffic enforcement or over-policing of misdemeanor conduct,” he said.

After the meeting, Julius D. Spain, Jr., the president of the Arlington branch of the NAACP, told ARLnow the board needs to revise the ordinance’s “admitted defects.”

“This current version of the CRB is not equitable and will not hold up in the long term to engender trust by our community in the public safety system,” he said. “The voices of communities of color need to be centered in this conversation.”

The public can provide direct feedback throughout June and at the July meeting. After the Board votes in July, assuming the ordinance is approved and not deferred, members of the review board would be appointed in the fall.

In a report, the county articulated many reasons not to include investigative powers.

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Arlington’s top prosecutor is partnering with a national criminal justice organization to reduce racial disparities in prosecution.

Arlington Commonwealth’s Attorney Parisa Dehghani-Tafti and St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner are the first two prosecutors to participate in a new partnership program from the Vera Institute for Justice, an organization working to reform the justice system, per its website.

“The Vera Institute for Justice has done an incredible amount of work on public safety, incarceration rates, and also whether incarceration is an effective tool for public safety,” Dehghani-Tafti tells ARLnow. “They were an organization that I was always hopeful to work with.”

As part of the new partnership, Dehghani-Tafti and Gardner will be working to reduce race-based differentials in prosecution rates by 20% in their jurisdictions. The work is part of Vera’s Motion for Justice initiative, in which prosecutors are given support and opportunities to bridge the gap between law enforcement agencies and the communities they serve, according to a press release.

Dehghani-Tafti and Gardner’s offices will receive policy recommendations and staff training, as well as resources to analyze data on the ways marginalized people are disproportionately impacted by prosecution practices, the release said.

This partnership, which will last 18 months, singles out Arlington as a leader in this work, Dehghani-Tafti said. The Arlington and St. Louis prosecutors’ offices are the first of up to 10 prosecutors’ offices in jurisdictions across the country that Vera plans to invite on as partners. (Dehghani-Tafti’s office also prosecutes cases for the City of Falls Church.)

“This is the conversation that I started when I started running,” she said. “We need to look at the results of our system and figure out how and why we’re there.”

This partnership is one way Dehghani-Tafti said she is keeping her promise to use data and evidence to drive lasting criminal justice reform.

“We’re going to need some help with our data, making our case management system be able to analyze data and run reports that are actually meaningful,” the prosecutor said.

The system Dehghani-Tafti said she inherited was designed to store information, not answer larger questions such as who is disproportionately represented in certain case outcomes.

“You can go case by case but you’re still operating in a system that we know cements racial and economic divides, continues cycles of traumas, affects families and communities and treats people who are incarcerated and their families — who haven’t done anything wrong — as expendable,” she said.

Here in Northern Virginia, Vera will also provide financial assistance to the Courthouse-based nonprofit Offender Aid and Restoration.

“OAR is an ideal partner for this,” Dehghani-Tafti said. “They’ve been looking at policies and practices, such as community service, through an anti-racism lens: Your economic means, your race, your zip code, your ability to speak English — that all can make it harder or easier to do community service.”

Dehghani-Tafti said she plans to get started with the Vera partnership “forthwith,” as soon as she can schedule 10 training sessions.

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