County Board Disappointed in Governor's Veto of Police Oversight Bill

Published on March 02, 2022

The Arlington County Board expresses its serious disappointment in Governor Youngkin’s veto of House Bill 670.  This bill, which passed the House of Delegates 65-35, and the Senate 21-19, would have empowered the County Board, rather than the County Manager, to appoint an Independent Policing Auditor. The Independent Policing Auditor is intended to work collaboratively with the County’s newly created Community Oversight Board and conduct concurrent investigations into police misconduct.  The recommendations for both the Independent Policing Auditor and the Community Oversight Board were implemented following extensive research and public engagement, spearheaded by the County’s Police Practices Group.

The process to establish Arlington’s oversight body took well over a year, including more than three months of broad public engagement on the draft of a new ordinance.  The participation of county stakeholders, including civil rights groups, police officers and leaders, and residents, as well as valuable input from subject matter experts including the National Association for Civilian Oversight of Law Enforcement (NACOLE), provided a basis for an ordinance that seeks to carefully balance transparency and trust while strengthening relationships between police and community. Unfortunately, the Governor’s veto took less than a week to disrupt the hard work of so many Arlingtonians.

“The Arlington community has created a Community Oversight Board ordinance informed by national best practices and empowered to work with an Independent Policing Auditor to conduct concurrent yet independent investigations with law enforcement,” stated County Board Chair Katie Cristol.  “ACPD, and our individual officers, set a very high standard for professionalism, and adding community oversight only serves to improve legitimacy, ensure accountability and increase transparency.”

The appointment of the Independent Policing Auditor is an integral piece to Arlington’s plan for police oversight.  Community advocates and national best practices argued for the total independence of the position from the law enforcement chain of command, while police leadership emphasized that the position required education, training, and experience in conducting complicated and sensitive investigations.  The auditor position is a carefully designed compromise to balance these important values. “It is deeply frustrating that the linchpin of our plan, which sought to bridge perspectives and unite our community, has been struck down by the Governor,” Cristol said.

The Arlington County Board’s further objection to the veto is that it appears to have been made based on a concern inapplicable to Arlington’s Community Oversight Board ordinance. The Governor’s veto states, “Investing in a single politically-appointed individual the power of judge, jury, and executioner without any input from law-enforcement officers or delineated qualifications for such individual constitutes an undue burden for those who protect and serve the community.”   Under Arlington County’s ordinance, neither the Community Oversight Board nor the Independent Policing Auditor provides binding disciplinary determinations. 

Chair Cristol stated, “We will seek every option to move forward with our ordinance as designed, including a truly independent Policing Auditor, because it reflects the compromise and values of our community. Our next steps include requesting a meeting with the Governor and his staff to address a clear misreading of Arlington’s intentions, and to support Delegate Patrick Hope, the bill’s patron, in additional efforts with HB 670.” 

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