Leesburg City Council Moves Forward to Create Civilian Policing Task Force | New

Leesburg City Council, in a 4-3 vote on Monday night, narrowly agreed to move forward with the creation of a civilian task force that will liaise with the Leesburg Police Department .

While council members agreed that Leesburg’s police force and leadership are exemplary, disagreement over the need and purpose of the task force dominated most of the conversation during the task force.

Vice Mayor Fernando “Marty” Martinez and Councilors Neil Steinberg, Ara Bagdasarian and Zach Cummings asked city staff to draft a resolution for a proposed task force made up of a police officer, a city staff member and seven residents of Leesburg with police or legal experience. chosen by the board.

The working group would not deal with personnel issues and would exist primarily to facilitate communication between police and citizens.

“I see it as a vehicle for education,” Cummings said. “It’s about involving citizens in their government.

When council first raised the idea of ​​creating a police oversight committee in May, staff said the city was in a difficult position.

Last year, Governor Ralph Northam (D) enacted Senate Bill 5035, which authorizes local governments to create police oversight bodies to investigate complaints and hold police accountable.

However, the law is worded in such a way that only counties or towns – not towns, like Leesburg – can form these committees. While Loudoun County could form a civilian oversight committee for Leesburg, it has not.

What Leesburg envisions instead is a task force that would educate the public about local policing and provide officers with the opportunity to form positive relationships with citizens.

However, Mayor Kelly Burk questioned the need for a working group, citing the department’s excellent reputation, diversity and community outreach.

“Other towns and counties come to our department to observe how we police,” she said.

“What is the problem that we are trying to solve and where is the data that proves that there is a problem with our police department? … We have to be careful not to give the impression that we have a service that needs to be watched. she said.

Councilors Suzanne Fox and Kari Nacy agree with Burk’s assessment.

“I see it as another solution looking for a problem,” Fox said. “I don’t know what the goal is. “

Other board members, however, argued that the task force could be an important preventive measure.

“The town of Leesburg does indeed have an excellent police service,” said Steinberg. “The time to develop a good program is when you don’t have a critical situation or serious problem, because that’s when the tensions increase… Then you take actions that aren’t. not so well thought out. “

Based on the direction of the council, city staff will draft a resolution to formally authorize the creation of the working group which will be put to a final vote at the July 27 council meeting, CEO Kaj Dentler said. .

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