The Alexandria City Council has chosen a hybrid approach as its preferred option for a Community Police Review Board. It’s a contentious move that, if approved next March, will allow independent civilian oversight over multiple aspects of the police department.
In a 4-3 vote last week, Council chose option “C” out of the four alternatives presented by staff. Each of the options will now be presented to the community in a two-month-long public feedback process that will ultimately lead to a council decision in March. The dissenting votes were cast by Mayor Justin Wilson, Councilwoman Amy Jackson and Councilwoman Del Pepper.
Model C is a hybrid auditing and investigation model of civilian oversight where law enforcement conducts investigations, except those assigned to the review board. The breadth of their investigations would include civilian complaints, use of force complaints, the death or serious injury of anyone in custody, discriminatory traffic stops and alleged abuses of authority.
“I’ve heard from the community about the need for investigative authority and the subpoena power,” Vice Mayor Elizabeth Bennett-Parker said. “I do think it’s important to also have an independent auditor that reports to counsel. I think with model C it seems to me like you can assign it as much authority as you want to.”
The proposal would cost about $500,000, according to a city staff report. That would fund an executive director/auditor with a $200,000 annual salary, $$75,000 per year for outside counsel, and additional city attorney with an annual salary of $100,000 and $125,000 for “other expenses.”
“One of the things that the community asked for is that for this body to have certain investigative authority, with subpoena power,” said Councilman Mo Seifeldein, who was unconcerned with its price tag. “Money is not the first thing that we should be talking about although it’s something that is relevant. It’s the pain of the communities that are dealing with this, some more than others.”
Mayor Justin Wilson said option C takes away a level of investigative authority from the police.
“I have a concern with that,” Wilson said. “If we are endorsing that as the sole alternative, I can not go along with that.”
In September, Council unanimously directed staff to draw up a proposal for the review board. This was done during a period of social unrest in the wake of the George Floyd murder at the hands of the Minneapolis police, after which Police Chief Brown himself and his officers participated in protests around the city calling for racial accountability in policing. The previous month, Brown was criticized by his officers for firing an APD officer for unjustified use of force.
All four options are below: