To the editor:
As a police reporter for two daily newspapers during the 1960s when there was a wave of civilian oversight of the police, I have had an enduring interest in the continuing conversation about the use and effectiveness of such bodies. Thus, the proposed composition of the new Alexandria “Independent Community Policing Review Board” caught my attention.
The commission is to have eight members of whom seven have a vote. Among the seven, three are to be from “racially or socially marginalized communities who have commonly experienced disparate policing …” Unfortunately, “disparate policing” goes undefined.
A fourth slot is reserved for a representative of an advocacy group for “racial and social justice.” There are three at-large members with no professional criteria listed, an aberration from the usual norm, and one person who has actual experience in law enforcement. That individual, however, has no vote.
Another puzzle is that while the citizen appointees, the advocacy group representative and the expert all serve three-year terms, the “marginalized” three serve only 18 months. No explanation is given for the disparity. It suggests, however, a lack of confidence about the continuing value of individuals whose qualification is being from a group “experiencing disparate policing.”
The net result of this board composition for me is to question its capability to see the police function holistically and with perspective. How about including a lawyer who handles traffic and criminal cases? Or a member of the media who has reported on a range of police-related issues? Or a member of the clergy who regularly is involved in police matters?
If this board is to have credibility with the larger public over time, as we hope, its composition is all important. Unfortunately, this effort by city hall seems to fall short.
-Jack Sullivan, Alexandria