On Oct. 19, 2021, an elderly driver hit the daughter of Tara-Leeway Heights resident Heather Keppler while riding her bike.
The impact of her body cracked the windshield and she fell to the ground. She was whisked to the hospital in an ambulance where — not wanting to disturb any potential broken bones — doctors cut off a favorite running shirt and took a full-body X-ray.
Doctors said her tailbone was either broken or bruised and additional scans would confirm which injury it was. Keppler said they opted not to know, as the recovery process was the same: sitting on a donut pillow and missing her exercise routines. This pause took a toll on her daughter, then a freshman training for a regional running race.
Keppler decided to get a lawyer when one for the 86-year-old man involved called to see if she had one. The mother says in retrospect — after her experience ended in dropped charges — she is lucky she hired legal help.
“I don’t know how I would’ve found out [what] was going on,” she said.
Since June 2020, Arlington police officers have been shepherding through the legal system less-serious traffic misdemeanors: speeding, driving without a license, and so on. Before, the Office of the Commonwealth’s Attorney had a prosecutor outside Courtroom 3C — where those cases are adjudicated — to enter plea bargains.
This arrangement was imperfect, according to Arlington’s top prosecutor, Parisa Dehghani-Tafti, who just won the Democratic primary race for her seat against challenger Josh Katcher.
The assigned prosecutor often did not have “any prior knowledge of the case” and did not share pre-court-date discovery with defendants, she wrote in a 2020 memo to County Manager Mark Schwartz. This was one reason she removed prosecutors from “3C.”
After hearing from a state agency that trains prosecutors and the Virginia State Bar Ethics Counsel, it became clear her staff could not meet their obligations to share all exculpating or incriminating evidence in these cases, she argued.
Dehghani-Tafti attributed this largely to an uptick in available footage from cameras that police wear and have in their cars. Sharing all evidence would require prosecutors to review, process and disclose footage from some 40,000 cases — a tall order given current staffing levels.
“We did not come to this decision lightly, but rather after a thorough analysis of several factors,” she wrote to the Arlington County Police Department in a 2020 memo.
Three years later, she tells ARLnow that her office has kept the promises in that memo.
“We have gotten involved in every case in which our law enforcement partners have asked us to get involved, as was promised in the memo,” she said.
Keppler, however, suspects that the lack of prosecutorial presence in traffic court could explain how her daughter never got her day in court. She supported Dehghani-Tafti in her original, successful 2019 bid but this experience led her to flip for Katcher.
After not hearing anything about her daughter’s case for some time, Keppler began to get worried.
Her lawyer found that subpoenas ordering the Kepplers and their assigned police officer to court on Nov. 18, 2021 were written but never issued.
“Because it was never issued, we never showed up to court,” she said. “Because no one was there, they dismissed the case.”
Like Keppler, local personal injury lawyer Jeff Jankovich says a prosecutor outside 3C could have helped the Kepplers. This person could have checked for the subpoenas and asked the judge to move the hearing date so everyone could make it.
Although Dehghani-Tafti’s memo says prosecutors were unfamiliar with the traffic cases on the docket that day, Jankovich recalls days when there were extremely experienced prosecutors who “did a pretty thorough job” of evaluating each case.
“If there were aggravating facts — an accident where someone was injured, or someone had significant prior record, even if it was minor speeding but the third, fourth or fifth offense — they were on top of that and it affected how they approached case,” he said.
Don’t expect Arlington’s crumbling sidewalks to be repaired any time soon.
That’s the message from a memo sent by the county’s Dept. of Environmental Services.
ARLnow.com first reported in March that many sidewalks built over the past two years were crumbling, most likely due to the combination of a snowy winter, salt and water-laden concrete.
While ugly, the sidewalks are not dangerous and are unlikely to crumble further, the memo says. While a possible repair method has been found, DES says it will not be widely applied until it can be tested during “a harsh winter.”
The memo, as obtained by ARLnow.com:
Dear Neighborhood Conservation Advisory Committee:
This is a follow-up notification to inform you about the status of sidewalk deterioration on recently constructed projects in the County. Since our last communication, we discovered the deterioration was not just isolated to a few locations that could quickly be repaired, but is in fact a region-wide problem. We want to keep you informed about what we have learned over the past few months and what our plan of action will be moving forward.
We conducted an extensive investigation including an independent analysis of deteriorated concrete samples, as well as a review of our specifications and construction practices. The investigation concluded that the concrete has a weak surface due to high water content and this weak surface can flake off when exposed to repeated freeze-thaw cycles in the presence of salt. This is known as scaling and is superficial in nature as it only affects approximately the top 1/8″ in most locations. This is also occurring in surrounding jurisdictions, including Fairfax and Montgomery County, who have similar specifications and construction practices.
Our investigation has also revealed that the strength of the concrete below approximately 1/8″ to 1/4″ is significantly higher and the scaling at most locations is not expected to get worse. Considering the overall depth of a sidewalk is 4″; the overall durability is also not likely to be affected.
We want to emphasize this is not a safety concern and only affects the appearance of the sidewalk. We have identified a possible repair methodology that may be viable for use at the most severely affected locations. This method will be evaluated at a few pilot sites before considering wider use.
The evaluation process will require the sites to go through a harsh winter to confirm efficacy. At that point, we will determine our next steps on repairs or continued monitoring for each affected location. Unfortunately, this will be a lengthy process and we ask for your patience.
As we continue to construct new sidewalks, the County is taking additional quality assurance measures to minimize the likelihood of more scaling, while still balancing costs against the risk of deterioration and its overall impact. The County has implemented new material testing protocols and has enhanced our construction inspection methods. We will also be proactively communicating with residents in areas where new concrete is installed about the importance of limiting salt use within the first year.
Arlington County will be working closely with other jurisdictions to compare repair methods and approaches and will continue to collaborate to find the best solution. We appreciate your understanding as we work to resolve this issue and we will continue to keep you informed.
As we previously reported, Arlington County Manager Barbara Donnellan’s proposed FY 2014 includes the elimination of seven police officer positions by attrition. A new police memo details the potential impacts of those cuts.
“Until now, the Police Department has been able to make reductions without significantly affecting important programs,” says the memo. “That is no longer possible.”
The memo, which was written by three ACPD captains and sent to community groups, is below.
I wanted to share with you the latest news on the County’s Fiscal Year 2014 Budget, and how it will affect policing in Arlington.
As you may know, County Manager Barbara Donnellan recently presented her Proposed Budget to the County Board. She explained that Arlington faces a $22 million budget gap, and proposed closing that gap with a mix of service cuts and a tax rate increase. All County departments have been asked to make cuts.
When asked to identify potential areas for reduction, the police department examined many potential options for reductions including:
- Responding to calls for police service
- Follow-up investigations
After evaluating potential options, the decision has been made to propose reductions in staffing levels to the current District Policing Teams. I can assure you that we remain committed to working with the community to ensure that Arlington remains a great place to live, work and visit, but these staff reductions will impact the manner in which the teams currently do business. We truly value our partnerships with the Arlington Community and will work diligently to continue these strong relationships. Here are some details about the proposed reductions and how they will change the way we do community policing.
District Policing Team reductions
Twenty officers are currently assigned to the three District Policing Teams. The proposed reduction would ultimately trim that number to 13 sworn staff members. In addition, we will re-assign one captain position currently assigned to the District Teams to form an Operational Support Unit. The Operational Support Unit will be responsible for most of the ancillary duties currently assigned to the district captains and patrol commanders, allowing them to focus on core functions. We will reorganize our District Policing in two phases.
Should the Board accept the reductions as proposed, we will reorganize from three to two Community Policing Teams. These teams will still be geographically assigned. The exact geographic boundaries have yet to be determined, but our initial plan is to use Route 50 as a dividing line. Any civic associations which exist on both sides of Arlington Boulevard would be assigned to one team, for consistency. In this phase, each team will have one captain, one sergeant, one corporal and three officers.
Through attrition, the two teams will eventually be further consolidated to one large team. This single team will include one captain, two sergeants, two corporals and eight officers. We anticipate that this phase will occur sometime in the next 18 months.
The positions eliminated from the current District Team configuration will be re-assigned to core function areas within the Department.
We realize that some in the community may be concerned about these proposed changes. As you know, communities across the nation have faced years of constrained budgets, the result of the financial crisis, subsequent recession and slow economic recovery. We in Arlington remain very fortunate – we have been able to preserve our core services. Until now, the Police Department has been able to make reductions without significantly affecting important programs. That is no longer possible.
We remain committed to continuing our community partnerships and community policing efforts. While the staff reductions will certainly limit our ability to continue to provide community policing services at current levels, I can assure you that we will do our best to provide the community with the highest level of service possible. Our initial assessment of areas where the community may realize a reduction in service from the community policing teams could include the following:
- Fewer community, civic, business, security meetings/workgroups attended
- Less participation in general and safety presentations
- Less opportunity to participate in community events such as picnics, parades, etc.
- Fewer staff to focus on quality of life issues in a specific community
We will work collaboratively to facilitate a smooth transition into this new structure, should it be adopted. At this point, no decisions have been made regarding staff assignments, but should the County Board adopt the proposed reductions we will make assignments quickly and ensure that you are kept informed.
Hat tip to John Antonelli
On Monday, management at the Archstone Ballston Square apartment building (850 N. Randolph Street) sent an email to residents detailing some incidents of excessive partying. The email also reminds residents of rules against tossing objects off balconies and holding drinking game competitions in apartment common areas.
Said the tipster who sent us the memo: “Archstone Ballston Square is turning into quite the frat [house].”
Having an enjoyable summer and being able to enjoy our outdoor spaces such as the BBQ area, Pool and Sundeck requires the cooperation of all residents.
This past Friday night someone threw beer bottles from their balcony into the pool and onto the pool deck. Thankfully the lifeguard was attentive and able to clean this out with only a minor delay in re-opening the pool for everyone’s enjoyment. Glass in the pool or on the pool deck poses a huge accident risk and also will force us to shut down the area possibly for extended periods of time. Please be reminded that tossing anything from your balcony is completely unacceptable and it poses dangers to the entire community. The weekend prior we had a minor mulch fire because of cigarettes being tossed off.
In addition, drinking games of any sort are prohibited in common areas. We do not allow alcoholic beverages to be taken to the pool area and alcohol cannot be consumed in the public areas such as the BBQ deck and courtyard. Going forward we will have to enforce this rule and resident found drinking will be asked to retreat to their own apartments. Only plastic cups or bottles may be used on the deck.
Due to the huge crowds we saw last weekend we can only allow each resident to bring one additional guest this summer. Please be reminded that we will hold residents responsible for their guests behavior as well.
Please assist us in maintaining this an enjoyable area for all residents by following the above rules and allowing your neighbors to enjoy the facilities as well.
Archstone Ballston Square
If you live in an apartment or condo, have you had similar incidents happen at your building?
Photo via Google