Editor: In her July 22 Letter to the Editor, Ms. Reeder expressed her displeasure with four members of the Leesburg Town Council regarding a motion passed authorizing the creation of task force related to the Leesburg Police Department. Ms. Reeder is well within her rights in offering her opinion, and should be applauded for taking the time to get involved in an important local issue. However, there are one or two points that should be clarified.
Ms. Reeder stated that four Council members, “refus[e] to understand…” Virginia law pertaining to the formation of a “…police advisory commission…” This is not true. The reason this is not true is that Leesburg pays a very talented town attorney who makes it his business the keep council well-informed of what is, or is not, permissible under current Virginia code. So, the council, as a body, fully understands that the formation of a police departmentoversight boardis not authorized for Virginia towns. What the vote referenced by Ms. Reeder intends, is to form a task force designed to advise council on the potential of a commission to create better lines of communication between the LPD and the Leesburg community at large. In voting for the task force there was no misunderstanding of the fact that Leesburg is indeed lucky to have Chief Brown leading the department, and that Leesburg is well served by the LPD. Furthermore, neither the task force nor a subsequent advisory commission would have subpoena power, disciplinary jurisdiction, access to sensitive records (investigative or personnel) or authority to override procedure or any decisions made by the LPD. In the creation of the task force, the hope is to establish stronger links between the LPD and the residents. Therefore, the goal (and a worthy one) is to build open dialogue before there is a crisis.
Ms. Reeder also opined about the current status of the expansion project for the LPD headquarters, and seems to be intimating that council is to blame for the fact that construction has not begun. Had shecontacted the town manager or any of a number of members of staff, or even Chief Brown, she would know that the project has been delayed primarily by design changes which involve adding a second story to the building to maximize the site and provide the LPD with more usable space. In altering any design there are budgetary consequences which must be taken into account. With any luck at all construction delays should be no more than four to six months. Finally, everyone should recognize that dealing with the COVID 19 pandemic has played no small part in the delays of more than one project. To that end Town Manager Kaj Dentler and the entire management team have done a spectacular job in keeping Town Hall open every business day, and keeping the town’s capital improvement projects on schedule to the extent possible.
Neil Steinberg, Leesburg Town Council
Marty Martinez, Vice Mayor, Leesburg Town Council