Alexandria, VA

The Alexandria chapter of the International Union of Police Organizations has strongly come out against the establishment a community police review board.

In a letter to ALXnow, the union’s leaders, who represent 250 sworn Alexandria Police Department officers (out of 318 in the force), said that the department is a “beacon of honor, respect, and accountability to the residents and visitors of the city.”

“We ask that City Council make reasonable, appropriate decisions based on facts specific to residents and employees of this city, not create a superfluous program in attempt to make an example of our department,” wrote Presidents Lt. Marcus Downey and Ofc. Oscar Olland. “Immediately following the Floyd incident, Alexandria City Council voted to create a Community Police Review Board (CRB), much to the surprise of the hundreds of Alexandria Police Officers.”

The letter continues, “The death of George Floyd during an encounter with the Minneapolis Police Department, and several subsequent high-profile incidents, have created public scrutiny of law enforcement as a whole and a reevaluation of the profession, including the duties and responsibilities of our law enforcement officers and the standards and practices of the agencies that employ them.”

The union stated that APD responded to 80,928 calls for service and arrested 4,316 subjects last year, and that 28 arrests required the use of force. A representative also told ALXnow that an auditing board would be more appropriate.

“Each of the 28 incidents in 2019 was deemed appropriate,” the IUPA letter states. “More information about these incidents are available on the police department’s website and are shared with the Human Rights Commission as well.”

As previously reported, there has been a renewed focus on police activities this year. During the worst days of the pandemic, patrol officers were sent home to telework, and there were demonstrations throughout the city in the wake of the death of George Floyd. In July, an internal survey of one of the police department unions found that a majority of officers surveyed were upset over the firing of an officer for unjustified use of force. The survey by the Alexandria chapter of the Southern States Police Benevolent Association (the other police union in Alexandria) found that morale was low and a majority of officers surveyed were wary of not receiving a fair administrative process if their conduct is called into question.

On Tuesday, the Alexandria City Council unanimously asked that City Manager Mark Jinks’ proposal establishing a review board include subpoena power and an independent investigator/auditor.

Mayor Justin Wilson said that he was content with the manager’s proposal as presented. He voted with his colleagues to make additions to the proposal, which Jinks said could be brought back to the table at next month’s legislative meeting on October 17.

“We have a professional, highly-skilled police department staffed by dedicated men and women who bravely serve the residents of our community,” Wilson told ALXnow after reading the letter. “I am grateful for their commitment and will work closely with them as we continue the community dialogue on civilian oversight.”

City Councilman Mo Seifeldein introduced the legislation establishing the review board that passed unanimously in June.

“I support the union’s right to express its views on this matter,” Seifeldein said. “I am thankful for those who are serving our community.”

City Councilman John Chapman said that police should reach out to council.

“I am open to meet with representatives from APD, and would prefer to meet and chat with them versus talk past each other in the press,” Chapman said.

The full letter from IUPA is below.

Over the last few months, the role of law enforcement within the community has become a frequent topic of discussion. The death of George Floyd during an encounter with the Minneapolis Police Department, and several subsequent high-profile incidents, have created public scrutiny of law enforcement as a whole and a reevaluation of the profession, including the duties and responsibilities of our law enforcement officers and the standards and practices of the agencies that employ them.

Immediately following the Floyd incident, Alexandria City Council voted to create a Community Police Review Board (CRB), much to the surprise of the hundreds of Alexandria Police Officers. Such a board is typically created after a police department suffers from questionable uses of force, an increase in crime or officer complaints, or a lack of accountability or transparency in dealing with the public.

The Alexandria Police Department has long been a beacon of honor, respect, and accountability to the residents and visitors of the city. It is vital that Alexandria residents and Council members have a thorough understanding of the high-quality work that the men and women of the police department provide daily so they may make an informed decision on the scope of the proposed CRB. We invite City Council to attend the police citizens academy and participate in the department’s ride-along program to gain firsthand insight in this unique profession. This significant decision should be based solely on facts and be absent of emotional influence of outside events or prejudice toward the profession of law enforcement itself.

Use of Force:

In calendar year 2019, Alexandria Police Officers responded to 80,928 calls for service and arrested 4,316 subjects, just 28 of which required some level of force to effect the arrest. That means just .0003% of the calls for service resulted in a use of force. After each use of force incident, the department’s Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR), an internal police unit staffed by veteran investigative supervisors, completes an investigation to determine if the force was justified. Each of the 28 incidents in 2019 was deemed appropriate. More information about these incidents are available on the police department’s website and are shared with the Human Rights Commission as well.

Officer Complaints:

From 2015 to 2019, Alexandria Officers responded to an average of 78,744 calls for service with an average of 103 formal complaints, just .001%. This miniscule number is based on the high ethical standard our officers exhibit with each citizen contact. Additionally, a majority of these complaints were generated from within the agency itself. This means employees and supervisors are holding each other accountable for their actions. We also point to the most recent Alexandria Community Livability Report, in which residents were questioned about Alexandria’s quality of life and government programs. The survey revealed that the community “felt positively about their interaction with most rating their experience as excellent or good. Survey respondents were also satisfied with the relationship between the department and the community, as most residents assessed the police departments’ ability to collaborate with the community to address crime, respond to resident concerns and foster positive relationships positively.”

Crime Statistics:

Part 1 crime, what the Department of Justice deems the eight most serious offenses, dropped more than 25% from 2009 to 2019 in the City of Alexandria. This occurred while the population in the City increased by approximately 20,000 people. Alexandria has also frequently been deemed one of the safest City’s in America by various national surveys.

Accountability:

The Alexandria Police Department has been accredited by the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies (CALEA) for more than 30 years. CALEA requires that the department remain in compliance with more than 480 professional standards. As mentioned, the department also staffs a highly qualified OPR staff that investigates allegations of officer misconduct and excessive force complaints. The Virginia State Police handles all officer involved shooting investigations and the Alexandria Human Rights Commission has the ability to investigate complaints of racial or gender bias.

Transparency:

The directives that govern officer’s standard of conduct are on the department’s website and available to view by anyone at any time. This includes our use of force directive. The decision to direct the city manager to create the CRB happened just days after more than half a dozen vigils and protests occurred in the City, ranging from one hundred to several thousand attendees. The Alexandria Police Department attended each rally to provide security for the attendees to exercise their First Amendment rights and as a symbol of solidarity with the community. At a time when tensions were high and all eyes were on us, we responded admirably, navigating each event with poise and professionalism, traits that are expected of an employee of the Alexandria Police Department.

Regardless of what is decided with the scope and authority of the CRB, Alexandria Police officers will continue to provide the highest quality of policing to its residents. We ask that City Council make reasonable, appropriate decisions based on facts specific to residents and employees of this city, not create a superfluous program in attempt to make an example of our department.

Authors:

Lt. Marcus Downey, President, IUPA Supervisor’s Chapter
Ofc. Oscar Olland, President, IUPA Chapter 5

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