Alexandria To Create Independent Civilian Policing Review Board Starting in July, a community board will review complaints against the Alexandria City Police Department and use-of-force incidents.
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Alexandria To Create Independent Civilian Policing Review Board

The Alexandria City Council adopted an ordiance that will create a community review board to investigate the city's police department. Alex Smith/Flickr / https://bit.ly/32vbsub hide caption

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Alex Smith/Flickr / https://bit.ly/32vbsub

The Alexandria City Council unanimously passed an ordinance that will establish an independent community policing review board, in line with a new statewide measure passed in October 2020.

The new board will field complaints from the community regarding policing in the city, review the Alexandria Police Department's investigations, conduct investigations into police behavior, and provide recommendations on policing practices and procedures. It will also create a new position — the Independent Policing Auditor/Investigator — to staff the review board. The position will be appointed by the City Council.

Lawmakers gave the ordinance final approval on Saturday, after spending a six-hour long meeting in March debating questions of confidentiality and finalizing the details of how the new board would operate.

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"This review board will work to provide enhanced citizen oversight and policy input to address racial and social equity in community policing as part of our commitment to ensuring the protection of all Alexandrians," Mayor Justin Wilson said in a press release following the council's vote.

The adoption of the ordinance follows a measure passed by the Virginia General Assembly in October 2020, which grants localities the authority to establish civilian review boards for their law enforcement agencies. Fairfax County already has such a review board, and Prince William County — where former D.C. Police Chief Peter Newsham now heads the county's police force — began discussing the creation of a civilian review board in December last year. In Arlington, a work group that spent seven months researching police practices and improvements recommended the county create a civilian review board in February.

In accordance with the statewide legislation, the civilian review board will be responsible for investigating use-of-force incidents, police encounters where someone is seriously injured while in custody, and review the abuse of authority especially when it involves discriminatory stops.

The creation of the board in Alexandria follows other measures taken to reform police accountability in Northern Virginia. Earlier this year, nearly a dozen Northern Virginia police departments joined to create a response team that would investigate serious use-of-force instances — including police shootings, in-custody deaths, and actions that result in life-threatening injuries — across multiple jurisdictions, to prevent one department from investigating its own officers.

While the D.C.-area jurisdictions of Arlington County, Fairfax City, and Prince William County police forces joined the new group, Alexandria City did not.

The plans for Alexandria's new civilian review board were first introduced in a resolution last June, in the midst of the nationwide protests following the killing of George Floyd. Dated June 9, 2020, the resolution pledged to "establish a Community Police Review Board within 90 days of passing this resolution."

This story is from DCist.com, the local news website of WAMU.

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