Opinion: Letter to the Editor: Call for Independent Police Auditor; More Data on Police Actions in Alexandria

Opinion: Letter to the Editor: Call for Independent Police Auditor; More Data on Police Actions in Alexandria

The Alexandria Human Rights Ordinance established the Alexandria Human Rights Commission (AHRC) in 1975. The Commission comprises 14 members appointed by city council for three-year terms. The AHRC works to ensure, among other things, that Alexandrians are treated fairly and in accordance with applicable state and local laws and regulations.

Between the two of us, we served 11 years on the AHRC as a liaison to the economic opportunities commission, the commission for women, as well as executive committee member, first vice-chair, and chair.

Annually, the AHRC meets with the Alexandria Police Department (APD) to discuss progress in addressing discrimination within the department, goals to support diversity and inclusion, and to review data provided to analyze statistical disparities with minority groups or specific segments of the community, which may exist.

The AHRC executive committee is the only civilian group that receives brief summaries prepared by APD of closed internal investigations involving past civilian complaints of unnecessary force, harassment, demanding language, hate crimes/biased policing and the use of excessive force. The brief summaries the executive committee members receive, are not comprehensive investigative reports nor are they publicly available. In fact, these reports are given at the beginning of a meeting and collected at the end. This prevents committee members from conducting thoughtful analysis, obtaining input from the entire commission or community, and conducting trend analysis to make informed recommendations.

In order to engage in sufficient civilian police oversight, we urge city council to hire a professional independent police auditor who works with the Community Police Review Board established by Resolution 2950 on June 9. An independent police auditor, and collaborating review board, must be independent of law enforcement, have sufficient resources and funding to support its operations, and access to police files and data to make informed recommendations to law enforcement, city council, and the Alexandria community.

Additionally, as commissioners, we advocated for more data transparency with APD and the public, specifically, for the passage of an ordinance that would require APD to collect and report all interactions between police officers and civilians (to include referrals to the police within the Alexandria City Public School system). The ordinance has not been included on the city council docket; however, we believe there is a continued need for the collection and report of disaggregated data based on race for traffic stops, use of force, civilian complaints, and stop-and-frisk searches. We believe it is necessary to have this data to advocate for policy, assess policing practices in Alexandria, and to address any trends that reveal biased policing practices.

-The Human Rights Commission-

The AHRC is able to "[c]onduct studies and hold hearings on social conditions that may cause discrimination on the basis of race, color, sex, religion, ancestry, national origin, marital status, familial status, age, sexual orientation or disability." The AHRC also "[g]ather[s] and disseminate[s] reliable information by issuing publications and reports of studies and research relating to such discrimination."1 Code also provides the AHRC with the responsibilities to "[b]ring to the attention of the city manager items that require city manager or city council notice or action to resolve" and to "[c]onduct studies and hold public hearings on policies or practices that cause or may be caused by a pattern or practice of discrimination."1

Monika Jones Chapman and LaDonna Sanders

1Alexandria Code of Ordinances, Section 12-4-15(a).