City Council unanimously approved the creation of an eight-member community policing review board [CPRB] at its public hearing on Saturday.
City Councilman Mo Seifeldein proposed the CPRB ordinance last year, and said that its creation is long overdue.
“I hope that the progress we made today begins to restore our residents’ trust in law enforcement,” Seifeldein said. “The country is traumatized almost daily with images of unjustified use of force at the hands of law enforcement. This has been the tragic reality of Black and Brown communities for years, and has largely been ignored.”
While the Alexandria chapter of the International Union of Police Organizations decried the board’s creation, there have been recent incidents that some say necessitate such a body, including a police chase that ended in a suspect’s death on April 12. Six Alexandria officers are on administrative duties while an internal review of the incident continues.
“It makes the argument stronger for a review board,” City Councilman John Taylor Chapman said, when asked about the April 12 incident.
Under the approved plan, an independent auditor will be hired and managed by the eight-person board. The board will then sign a memorandum of understanding with the Police Chief Michael Brown and City Manager Mark Jinks. The Board will be able to issue subpoenas and issue recommendations to the police chief and City Council.
According to the ordinance:
At the conclusion of the investigation, the Independent Policing Auditor/Investigator shall forward the file with a report of investigation to the Board. The Board shall hold at least one public hearing on the investigation. At the conclusion of the public hearing, the Board may take one of the following actions: 1) Dismiss the complaint if, based on the file and report of investigation, it determines that the complaint lacks merit or the incidents was justified; 2) Refer the complaint to the Commonwealth’s Attorney for the City of Alexandria; and 3) Recommend disciplinary action to be taken by the Chief of Police.
The auditor will have access to:
- All APD reports, files and records related to the Board’s investigation or review of complaints filed with the Board or with APD
- All records, documents and materials in the possession of APD or the City that are determined by the Board to be necessary and requested by the Board to carry out its scope and authorized functions shall be provided in unredacted form
- Active criminal investigative files, which will not be provided until the investigation is complete
Board members will serve three year terms, and their selection will be staggered. Three members will be chosen for an 18-month inaugural term and four members will get three year terms. Current or former city employees are ineligible to be members, and the board will be comprised of at least three members who from “historically, racially or socially marginalized communities that have commonly experienced disparate policing in Alexandria,” a member from an organization that seeks racial or social justice; and a non-voting member with past law enforcement experience.
Board investigations will be limited to claims that occurred within two years of the complaint. The Board will be able to investigate the following:
- “Incidents resulting in death” including any incident which results in death of any 16 person involved in the incident
- “Use of Force” incidents, defined as the application of force sufficient to (i) create a reasonable risk of death, (ii) cause serious and protracted disfigurement, or (iii) result in impairment of the function of any bodily organ or limb
- It includes incidents in which a police officer deploys a striking implement, Taser or similar device, oleoresin capsicum (pepper) spray or other chemical irritant, less lethal weapon or a firearm or is applied using hands or any other part of the body
- “Severe misconduct” defined as dereliction of duty or unlawful or improper behavior
- Violating safety rules or the Virginia Traffic Code where such a violation poses a threat to life
- Threatening or intimidating subordinates, fellow employees, supervisors or members of the public.
- Willful or serious neglect in the performance of assigned duties or in the care, use, or custody of any City property.
- Sexual conduct, even consensual conduct, on the job
- Verbal or other conduct regarding an individual or group that maligns or shows hostility for the individual or group because of race, color, religion, gender, national origin, age, disability, sexual orientation, or gender identity and expression