Loudoun Supervisors Support Civilian Police Oversight Panel in Split Vote

The Loudoun Board of Supervisors has narrowly voted to support state legislation that would allow localities to set up law enforcement civilian review boards that could make binding disciplinary determinations.

Two bills in the General Assembly would authorized civilian review boards that could investigate complaints from the public about law enforcement, review incidents and the use of force, review internal investigations, recommend policy, and even make binding disciplinary decisions. One bill authorizes localities to set up those boards and gives them those powers, and one requires them to do so.

Sen. Ghazala F. Hashmi (D-10) introduced the bill authorizing and empowering those boards, Senate Bill 3035, and Sens. Jennifer B. Boysko (D-33) and Barbara A. Favola (D-31) have signed on as co-patrons. House Bill 5055, which has four patrons and 26 co-patrons including Dels. Ibraheem S. Samirah (D-86), Kathleen Murphy (D-34), and Wendy W. Gooditis (D-10), would mandate the panels.

Both bills have been passed in their own chamber and passed to the other, and the two chambers are still hashing out the difference between them to arrive at a final bill. And legislative liaison Gwen Kennedy told supervisors during a special meeting Sept. 9 that passage of some sort of bill seems almost certain.

“We think that the mandatory provisions of the bill are not likely to stay,” Kennedy said. She noted that is consistent with the county board’s longtime stance against unfunded mandates from the state, as well as with findings that those boards are most effective when driven by their local community.

In emailed, unofficial votes before the public meeting, supervisors had supported the concept of civilian review boards 5-4, with Supervisors Tony R. Buffington (R-Blue Ridge), Caleb A. Kershner (R-Catoctin), Matthew F. Letourneau (R-Dulles) and Kristen C. Umstattd (D-Leesburg) opposed.

Civilian oversight of law enforcement has been a hot topic nationally in a year marked by police violence and protests sparked against it. They have been held up by proponents as a way to increase transparency in law enforcement organizations, which have broad authority to shield information from public disclosure and afford their officers protection from civil liability.

The heads of the county’s two largest law enforcement organizations, Sheriff Michael Chapman and Leesburg Police Chief Greg Brown, have both opposed the civilian oversight boards when asked to set them up by the local NAACP. Meanwhile in Purcellville, the Town Council is working to set up a civilian board with apparently a strictly advisory role.

Supervisor Matthew F. Letourneau (R-Dulles) said he was part of setting up a civilian oversight board for the Metro Transit Police Department, as part of his work on the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Agency Board of Directors. Most police, he said, have welcomed the boards, and in most cases they have found that police did the right thing.

“We just need to be very careful in how these are put together, and the way that this General Assembly session is going, at the speed at which it’s going, I don’t have a great deal of confidence that all of these considerations are being made,” Letourneau said. In particular, he said, the civilian board should not be able to make binding decisions.

Umstattd said, “I don’t’ think our officers have shown a need for it.”

“It seems that his bill is morphing even as we speak,” Umstattd said. “I’m no longer sure what is mandatory and what is not, but I do not like the fact that it would be another unfunded mandate at a time when I believe the state continues to cut the 599 [state police aid to localities] funds to law enforcement, and they’re not offering to pay for any of this.”

Meanwhile, Supervisor Tony R. Buffington (R-Blue Ridge), a law enforcement officer with the United States Capitol Police, said he worried the board would be “filled with people who are anti-police,” and defended law enforcement agencies’ ability to investigate themselves impartially.

But the slim majority of supervisors supported the bills. County Chair Phyllis J. Randall (D-At Large) said the board could, in fact, support law enforcement.

“We’ve gotten to this notion that it has to be negative or it has to be punitive,” Randall said. “I see it as just the opposite. I think it should be supportive.”

Supervisors also voted along party lines to support a bill requiring law enforcement to release publicly video footage within 15 days of any incident in which an officer used a gun, stun gun, or chemical irritant such as pepper spray.

Supervisors also affirmed unofficial emailed votes that oppose automatic expungement of some criminal convictions after eight years with no new arrests or convictions, which only Supervisor Juli E. Briskman (D-Algonkian) supported; opposed requiring a court to grant a motion to dismiss made by the state, again supported by Briskman; unanimously support an annual report on Crisis Intervention Teams across the state; and support a bill requiring law enforcement officers to render aid to people suffering serious injuries and to report wrongdoing by other officers, which only Kershner opposed.

rgreene@loudounnow.com

11 thoughts on “Loudoun Supervisors Support Civilian Police Oversight Panel in Split Vote

  • 2020-09-14 at 3:10 pm
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    Loudoun County Reports Lowest Crime Rate In D.C. Area.
    Do they even look at what is happening before they vote?
    Have they issued a proclamation for Chapman as man of the year? Did they offer to put a statue on the court house grounds of Chapman? Will the new stadium be renamed? They must of renamed a school in his honor, right? Wait, what about a holiday acknowledging one of our own, no? Okay, okay but how about a street? Did Moms design a shirt for him?
    Notice those who do not appreciate Mike Chapman and the Sheriffs Office are all criminals and democrats. Think about paying the BoS or Chapman who would you say is doing the better job, vote with your pocketbook. Maybe we need sheriff oversight of the BoS?

  • 2020-09-14 at 4:09 pm
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    For preventing the Board of Supervisors of poor people in Loudoun County, from being a burden on their parents or country, and for making them beneficial to the publick it appear appropriate to appoint a civilian oversight panel for the Board of Supervisors.

    It’s a modest proposal but worth consideration.

  • 2020-09-14 at 4:40 pm
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    While we are at it where is the school board oversight? 2 entities one the Sheriff a major success story the other is the school board.

  • 2020-09-14 at 4:50 pm
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    Wow, we will have people who do not know anything about being a Sheriff overseeing law enforcement. This is ridiculous. Why oversee something that is working. There are so many other organizations that are wrong in this county but this is not one of them. For example look at how the Board of Supervisors screwed the public library with their day care proposal and yet the BOS will not apologize to them or the taxpayers of Loudoun County. Shame on Phyllis and the supervisors to support this. We will remember you come election time!!!

  • 2020-09-14 at 4:57 pm
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    What we need in Loudoun is for the schools to open. The DMV to open and be expanded instead of the ridiculous appointment scheme. We need our small business restaurants to stop being throttled by polticans intent on causing pain and suffering… just because they can. We need the trash picked up off the roads, and roads improved and repaired.

    Rather than doing things that actually matter in the day to day of Loudouners, these people search for problems that don’t exist so they can tell the party bosses in Richmond they’re down with the extreme agenda. They’re loyal to the bosses, not to the people of Loudoun. It’s sickening what this board has devolved in to.

  • 2020-09-14 at 5:07 pm
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    It sure would be nice to know where on the priority list this falls. Then again there apparently is no list as the BOS lurches from one social issue to another in a most rudderless way. For the $multi-billion budget couldn’t we at least get a list of priorities and if statues, 100 year old plaques and getting some inexperienced and no doubt highly diverse people hired to watch over Sheriff Chapman then so be it. WHERE IS THE LIST? 🙂

    • 2020-09-14 at 7:42 pm
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      Elections are the oversight to law enforcement in Loudoun. A group of uninformed citizens, worse than the Loudoun Board of Supervisors, to serve as oversight of law enforcement would deminish the peace the Sheriff’s department has worked so hard to maintain.

  • 2020-09-14 at 6:00 pm
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    Loudoun Education (Eric Williams) needs civilian oversight.

    There is nothing wrong with Loudoun law enforcement. Why is Randall supporting this crap?

    FOCUS Phyliss, FOCUS on real problems!

  • 2020-09-20 at 3:34 pm
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    This is just another angle the Loudoun Democrat BOS has come up with to continue to support their party’s’ assault on law enforcement in Loudoun County, in Virginia, and nationwide.

    If there was a habitual and ongoing problem with law enforcement in Loudoun, the democrats BOS would clearly document that, then present their case that this panel is needed address those issues. But like the democrat BOS gun bans, the data does not support their call to action, yet they continue working to role out radical left policies in Loudoun to address problems that do not exist.

    Randall said. “I see it as just the opposite [of negative or punitive]. I think it should be supportive.” How will this civilian panel with “binding disciplinary determinations” be supportive? Will this panel have equal call in its charter to investigate job well done and make “binding praise/award determinations” as well?

    Loudoun County officers should not have to face the decision to choose between preserving their lives & livelihood or taking action to keep Loudoun peaceful and safe, due to existence of a BOS political civilian oversight panel with binding disciplinary powers, whose purpose in life is to continually seek out and dispense those binding disciplinary determinations.

    Even if the final bill removes the binding part, let no one forget the democrats championed the binding disciplinary part, they will likely view removal as a setback and will likely retry to slip it back in the future.

    Hopefully Loudoun residents will no longer regard off year local elections as unimportant.

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