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Alexandria Police Department Dismisses Officer for Unjustified Use of Force

An Alexandria police officer has been dismissed and is facing criminal review after allegedly using unjustified force against an unarmed man.

“A white male officer reported using weaponless force against a white male subject’s leg, in order to take him to the ground,” the City of Alexandria said in a press release. “The subsequent investigation determined that the use of force was unjustified because no force was necessary.”

Termination proceedings have been initiated, but the police department has also referred the use of force to the Commonwealth’s Attorney to consider criminal charges.

“Three supervisors who failed to investigate the use of force promptly enough have also been disciplined,” the city said.

City spokesman Craig Fifer said that because the termination proceedings and criminal review were still underway, the city would not release the name of the police officer at this time.

“Use of force is dehumanizing and should be avoided whenever possible, even when legally justified,” said Police Chief Michael Brown in the press release. “Unjustified use of force is completely unacceptable, and we will continue to hold officers accountable in the rare cases when violations of this policy occur. Alexandria police officers do not typically use force at all, because they are required to de-escalate interactions and situations when possible by communicating effectively with subjects, maintaining distance, and employing other measures to protect themselves and those around them.”

The full press release is available below:

The Alexandria Police Department initiated termination proceedings today against a police officer, after the department determined that the officer’s use of force against a subject was unjustified.

“Use of force is dehumanizing and should be avoided whenever possible, even when legally justified.” said Chief of Police Michael Brown. “Unjustified use of force is completely unacceptable, and we will continue to hold officers accountable in the rare cases when violations of this policy occur. Alexandria police officers do not typically use force at all, because they are required to de-escalate interactions and situations when possible by communicating effectively with subjects, maintaining distance, and employing other measures to protect themselves and those around them.”

A white male officer reported using weaponless force against a white male subject’s leg, in order to take him to the ground. The subsequent investigation determined that the use of force was unjustified because no force was necessary. In addition to initiating termination proceedings, the department has referred this use of force to the Commonwealth’s Attorney to consider whether criminal charges are warranted. Three supervisors who failed to investigate the use of force promptly enough have also been disciplined. Because the termination process and criminal review are still ongoing, the City will not release additional information about the case at this time.

Alexandria police officers have used force against 37 subjects in 2019 and 2020, out of more than 5,500 individuals taken into custody. These 37 subjects represented approximately 0.7% of those taken into custody, or 1 in 150, following nearly 111,000 calls for service. Firearms were only used by officers in one of the 37 cases, and most uses of force did not involve officers’ weapons at all.

The races and ethnicities of the subjects of force in 2019 and 2020 were generally proportionate to those of all persons taken into custody, except that use of force against white non-Hispanic subjects was disproportionately high, and use of force against white Hispanic subjects was disproportionately low. Black subjects comprised 50% of individuals taken into custody and 51% of subjects of force.

Any officer who uses force is required to report it immediately, and an investigation of each use of force is conducted to determine whether it was justified. No use of force since 2017 has been found to be unjustified, other than the case described above. Since 2006, the Police Department has met with the Alexandria Human Rights Commission to discuss any officer-involved shooting or use of a Taser conductive energy weapon, as well as any complaint of excessive use of force. Since 2018, the Police Department has voluntarily used the Virginia State Police to conduct an independent investigation of any officer-involved shooting, in addition to required reviews by the Office of the Commonwealth’s Attorney.

Each Alexandria police officer receives over 800 hours of basic training, including more than 116 hours in the appropriate use of force; 21 hours in preventing bias; 12 hours in interpersonal communication, ethics and leadership; and nine hours in communicating with specific groups such as individuals with autism, who are deaf, or who have physical disabilities or mental health challenges. Additional training is provided on a continuous basis. Approximately 60% of Alexandria police officers are certified in crisis intervention to recognize mental health issues and practice verbal de-escalation and active listening skills to reduce risk and avoid the use of force, with a department goal of 100% certification.

Staff photo by Vernon Miles

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