Nine Purcellville residents—including a 15-year-old, a Presbyterian pastor and a former military police officer—are ready to begin recommending to the Town Council ways to improve the town’s 14-member police force.
The Purcellville Town Council on Monday night unanimously appointed the inaugural slate to the Community Policing Advisory Committee, which the council voted to create in October after four months of discussion; its formation was originally suggested by former councilman Nedim Ogelman and resident Molly Magoffin following a June 7 Black Lives Matter march in town following national outcry surrounding racism in policing.
Committee members will have staggered terms.
Serving from Jan. 4 to Jan. 3, 2023 will be 20-year town resident Thomas Christie; Leonard Markland, a former military police officer who, according to his application, feels the committee “… should not be an ‘oversight’ position, it should be a bridge position that helps the community and the police officers engage in the mutual protection of all”; Elizabeth Ford, a senior IT systems analyst with Hitachi Vantara Federal and a seven-year volunteer at the Loudoun County Adult Detention Center who mentors women; nine-month resident Caleb Stought, a former cryptologic linguist with the U.S. Army who also studied intelligence and criminal justice as part of his graduate studies at National American University; and 15-year-old Payton Arnett, the daughter of County Chair Phyllis J. Randall’s (D-At Large) chief of staff and one of the speakers at the June 7 Black Lives Matter rally in town.
According to the town ordinance creating the committee, all members must be at least 16 years of age. Arnett turns 16 on Dec. 27.
Serving from Jan. 4 to Jan. 3, 2022 will be Christopher Baltimore, a principal information security analyst with Halfaker & Associates; Kirk Balthazar, who, according to his application, “grew up [in] New York city and Washington, DC, during some of the worst times in our nation’s history and I witnessed first hand how some police department officers brought the community together while others tore it apart”; David Milam, the pastor of St. Andrew Presbyterian who was involved in the formation of the committee over the past six months and who noted in his application that he “found it compelling” to hear from several Town Council members about “the challenges of racial bias that are noticeably present in our good community”; and lifelong town resident Larry Simms, a retired 44-year teacher with Loudoun County Public Schools.
The Town Council also voted unanimously to appoint Vice Mayor Mary Jane Williams, who has served on the council since July 1, to serve a two-year term as the Town Council liaison on the committee. Town Manager David Mekarski also will need to appoint one of his staffers to facilitate committee meetings.
According to the Oct. 13 ordinance to create the advisory committee, the group is designed to enhance communication between police and residents, encourage town police to treat all residents equally and fairly, recognize police for their good work, raise awareness of police injustice and improve public trust of police.
Committee members, among other duties, will be responsible for providing recommendations to the Town Council on the Police Department’s annual budget. In the town’s Fiscal Year 2021 budget, $3 million is allocated to public safety and the Police Department, which has 22 sworn officer positions, eight of which are vacant.
The panel also will review issues members see in the department and recommend ways to prevent police bias and use of “unnecessary deadly force.”
The committee will convene in at least four public meetings annually.
Mayor Kwasi Fraser said the committee would begin meeting “as soon as possible,” likely at the beginning of the year, via video calls.
“All that [the committee] can do virtually, let’s see what can be done,” he said.
Missing out on spots on the committee are Andrea Walter, an active member of the town’s Volunteers in Police Service Program, which the Police Department created in 2018 to recruit resident volunteers to support its understaffed operations; Harry Harting, an auxiliary police officer with the Gordonsville Police Department and a former auxiliary deputy sheriff with the Shenandoah County Sheriff’s Office, a former customs inspector and a former immigration inspector; Robert Rimmel, a Loudoun County Public Schools teacher and administrator; Christie Morgan, a real estate professional who has lived in town for 15 years; and Alie Campbell, a 2019 Loudoun Valley High School graduate.
Also not selected for appointment was Charlene Lane, a former police investigator for the Alexandria Police Department who emphasized during discussions of the committee’s formation in the past half year that the committee could lead to community groups actively searching for bias within the Police Department.