City Councilman Wants Police Review Board to Have Investigative Authority, Subpoena Power

The Alexandria City Council will receive a staff proposal next month on a community police review board, and Councilman Mo Seifeldein says he wants the body to have independent investigative authority and subpoena power in investigating police misconduct.

“Don’t abuse your power is what it comes down to,” Seifeldein said in a virtual meeting on Tuesday night. “The board could receive complaints that deal with abuse of power, serious misconduct… unnecessary force, unreasonable excessive use of force, use of racial, ethnic or sexual language/ remarks or just harassment, generally.”

Seifeldein, who introduced the legislation that passed unanimously in June, said that allegations of misconduct have been swept under the rug for far too long, and that there are about 150 police review boards in jurisdictions across the country. In Virginia, there are such board in Fairfax County, Virginia Beach and Charlottesville.

As previously reported, there has been a renewed focus on police activities this year. During the pandemic when a third of patrol officers were sent home to telework, followed by national unrest over policing in the wake of the death of George Floyd.

The department recently fired an officer for unjustified use of force, and his case was moved to the Commonwealth Attorney’s office for review. The move, which was made by Police Chief Michael Brown, was met with criticism by some officers, and an internal survey conducted by the Alexandria chapter of the Southern States Police Benevolent Association found that morale was low and that a majority of officers surveyed were wary of not receiving a fair administrative process if their conduct is called into question.

Seifeldein said he has met with a number of community groups regarding the new board, including the Alexandria NAACP, Grassroots Alexandria, Tenants & Workers United and the Northern Virginia Black Attorneys Association.

“We’re doing the best we can to make sure that we have everyone input, before I share my thoughts with my colleagues and the city,” Seifeldein said.