As a longtime resident of Alexandria City and the lead organizer at Tenants and Workers United, I write to commend the Alexandria City Council for their move to allocate funding for the creation of a Community Police Review Board. For far too long, the City’s police department has gone unchecked by the communities they are supposed to serve and protect. If they are, in fact, here to serve everyone equally, then the communities of color that are disproportionately impacted by police misconduct and police brutality must be given a position of oversight and authority.
For five years now, TWU organizers, community members, and young people have advocated for significant changes to local law enforcement policies, including a City ordinance to require the Alexandria Police Department (APD) to collect and publicly report disaggregated data on all police interactions, with demographic information of those stopped and arrested. After lots of verbal commitments, we have yet to see any reports with meaningful data from the police department.
This move by the City Council could not have come a moment too soon. As the country grieves from yet more horrific murders of Black people at the hands of unaccountable police, our leaders face a critical choice: Cower away from change to preserve the dangerous, violent, racist status quo? Or enact bold, meaningful, structural changes to advance racial equity and improve the lives of our communities of color. The guilty verdict in the trial of the police officer who murdered George Floyd gives us some hope that accountability standards are changing, but this never should have happened in the first place. We need meaningful preventative measures in place at the local level. We have made our voices very clear, and we are glad to see the City Council take action to address our needs.
This Community Police Review Board will, in part, be made up of members from our communities, “historically, racially or socially marginalized communities that have commonly experienced disparate policing in Alexandria or the Commonwealth of Virginia.” This is essential.
Now, we will watch for a successful implementation and additional plans for long-term funding to sustain the Community Police Review Board. We look forward to working with a City Council that values our input and makes decisions on behalf of all of us to advance racial equity.