Leesburg Police Chief Gregory Brown said his department goes above and beyond the recommendations laid out by a national movement to address police brutality, and has for many years.
But according to Brown’s presentation, the department meets the policies of the campaign.
Brown addressed the Town Council during its Monday night work session and responded directly to the 8 Can’t Wait campaign, which urges jurisdictions to implement eight policies regarding use of force that organizer Campaign Zero says can decrease police violence by 72 percent. The movement has gained national attention since the death of George Floyd on May 25, at the hands of Minneapolis, MN, police officers.
When he read the policies endorsed by 8 Can’t Wait, Brown said he “had a small smile on my face to know that the Leesburg Police Department not only complies with all eight, but our policies exceed that.” He said both the department and the Northern Virginia Criminal Justice Academy, of which his department is one of 17 member agencies, has been in compliance with the campaign’s policies for at least two decades, predating his time as police chief.
Brown did a point-by-point comparison of his department’s policies with those suggested by 8 Can’t Wait. Campaign Zero calls for a ban on chokeholds and strangleholds; requiring de-escalation; requiring a warning before shooting; exhausting all alternatives before shooting; a duty to intervene; a ban on shooting at moving vehicles; establishing a use of force continuum; and requiring all use of force to be reported.
Brown said while the department already had a Duty to Intervene policy—which requires officers tostop or attempt to stop another officer when force is being inappropriately applied or is no longer required—in place, he recently worked with Interim Town Attorney Martin Crim to strengthen it.
However he also said the department no longer employs a use of force continuum, policies that describe an escalating series of actions officers may take. Brown said that was an antiquated practice. Instead, the department uses an updated training method, the Use of Force and De-escalation Model, that reinforces de-escalation and escalation more dependent on specific circumstances of the encounter. The department requires reporting for all use of force by its officers, with a final review of each incident by Brown.
“Tracking use of force can sometimes help us to see if there’s a pattern being developed,” with an officer, he said.
Brown underscored the importance of relationships and building that trust with the community. He said he was proud of the department’s widely regarded community policing program, put in place by his predecessor Chief Joseph Price. Each academy class of the Northern Virginia Criminal Justice Academy comes to Leesburg each session to study the department’s community policing model.
“I can’t take credit for that but am very proud we have maintained that over the years,” Brown said.
In response to a question from Councilman Neil Steinberg, Brown said he took umbrage with the call of protesters nationwide to “defund the police” and instead have government resources reallocated to allow other agencies to perform some of the duties undertaken by police officers. Brown said council members would be amazed at the number and the types of calls the department receives on a daily basis, and also pointed out how expectations of officers have changed over the years. He said the amount of training required for police officers has more than doubled since when he was in the academy.
In early June, the department published responses to a list of questions posed by community members nationwide in the wake of Floyd’s death. Those responses, which also list off department policies, can be found atleesburgva.gov/Home/Components/News/News/8745/29.