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UPDATE: Prince William Supervisors to Consider Striking Language Regarding Defund Police from Strategic Plan

| December 3, 2020 | 0 Comments | News

Gainesville Supervisor Peter Candland

UPDATE below article..

Prince William, VA –  Supervisor Pete Candland (R-Gainesville) will bring forward a resolution proposing to strike all language or references to defunding or reallocating funds away from the police from Prince William County’s 2021-2024 Strategic Plan, at today’s Board of County Supervisor’s meeting,

“We have one of the finest police forces in the country that has made extraordinary efforts in keeping our community safe.” said Supervisor Candland. “I want the Board to reaffirm the commitment we have made in supporting our police officers and ensure that adequate resources, for their work, are included in our next strategic plan.”

The Strategic Plan is a document developed every four years that provides guidance on policy and resource allocations. It must be approved by the board.

The staff creates the proposed Strategic Plan based upon input from the Strategic Development Team, representatives from each district that seek input from citizens.*

The current language in the proposed 2021-24 Strategic Plan does not say “defund the police;” rather to “consider reallocation of some Police funding to other social services.” This language falls under “Key Themes in Focus Areas.” Having another service respond to certain situations, such as those involving mental health issues, could help to deescalate a situation. The Brooking Institute has compiled information on issues surrounding reallocating police funding. 

However, Candland wants to make sure that police do not lose any funding over the next four years.

“I would support the concepts of supplementing the police department’s efforts through increasing funds to social services, but not at the expense of our police,” he told Bristow Beat.

In previous years the board has often worked to gradually increase the size of the police with the aim to reach reach recommended service levels, provide raises to officers, or provide additional one-time funding for new technology and equipment such as dash cams.

However in light of police killings of people of color, the Black Live Matters movement found new energy as well as the Defund the Police movement. The issue struck close to home over the summer as Black Lives Matter protests became common. While most protests were peaceful, police called in the Virginia State Police who used tear-gas and rubber bullets to disperse the crowd in the Gainesville District along Sudley Road. In the following days and weeks, the PWC Police took added action to engage and accommodate protesters.

However, Candland does not believe defunding Prince William Police will solve any problems, nor it is in keeping with what the majority of citizens want for the county despite some vocal proponents speaking at Citizens’ Time.

“The citizens of PWC overwhelmingly approve of our police department and believe they should have more resources, not less,” said Candland.
In a press release, Candland notes states that since its inception in 1970 the Prince William County Police Department has been accredited and re-accredited, as recently as 2019, by the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies, Inc. (CALEA). CALEA is an independent organization formed from the efforts of the International Association of Police Chiefs, the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives, the National Sheriff’s Association and the Police Executive Research Forum. 

The Prince William County Police Department was only the 55th such agency nationwide to receive accreditation in 1987, and was only the 5th agency in the country to receive the TRI-ARC Award of Excellence from CALEA.

“That award reflects accreditation in three areas: Law Enforcement, Public Safety Communications, and Public Safety Training Academy,” Candland said.

The idea to reallocate police funding will be considered by a diverse and Democrat-led board, which has brought different issues and priorities to the forefront. One priority has been to consider how race and equity figure into how Prince William County conducts its business. The board has discussed how people of color experience discrimination that white people perhaps do not understand or think much about.

Candland stated he is also invested in making sure local police consider to operate in a way that is fair and equitable.

“While certainly we denounce any instances of excessive force, racial profiling, and any type of discrimination by our police force or any other part of government, pulling resources away from our public safety doesn’t fix anything. We need to focus on better training and strengthening relationships within the community,” said Candland. “Over the last ten years, we have made tremendous strides in providing the necessary resources to our public safety departments and to reverse that progress will hurt the citizens we are supposed to protect.” 

Supervisor Jeanine Lawson (Brentsville) seconded the motion made by Supervisor Candland that the resolution be added to the December 1 agenda. Last week, she reached out to constituents in a news letter asking that they voice their support for Candland’s resolution.

The resolution coincides with he hiring of a new Police Chief, Peter Newsham, current Police Chief for Washington, D.C. Metropolitan Police.

*This sentence has been added to the article to reflect the community process. 

Prince William Supervisors Retain Language to Reallocate Police Funding with the Presentation Documents of the Strategic Plan

Abbreviated UPDATE, Dec. 3 at 1 p.m.

The language remains. Candland’s resolution was rejected 3-5 at the Dec. 1 meeting. Democratic members explained that it was the recommendation of the Strategic Planning Team, and the board does NOT plan to defund the police. They would like it to remain in the presentation as it reflects the concerns of some Prince William constituents, and they do not want to censure anyone’s voice. They note it is only the beginning of the process and citizens should not be concerned that this is a final draft of the Strategic Plan for the next four years.

Victor Angry (D-Neabsco) said it is a first amendment issue. People’s voices should be heard. He notes the supervisors have repeatedly said they intend to fully fund the police at least to existing levels, maybe more. Yet, the issue keeps arising in board meetings, worrying citizens.

Margaret Franklin (D-Woodbridge) said Supervisor Candland’s email led to “chaos” because it miscommunicated the board’s intent, spreading panic among citizens and officers. First, there is no mention of defunding the police but of “reallocating” funds to social services. Secondly, it is only the first proposal brought to them. The supervisors have not even formally discussed the focus items yet.

She said she has done ride-alongs with police and hears misinformation. When she explains things to her constituents, they generally understand and take no issue with the board’s actions. She said the supervisors need to work to clear up the message not encourage the spread of misinformation.

Republicans said they still see no reason to include reallocating money from police as a focus item if (1) none of the supervisors are seriously considering it, and (2) the overwhelming majority of citizens support their police department and want to fund police at least to existing levels, (3) it sends the wrong message and (4) staff should not allocate resources exploring the issue.

Candland and Supervisor Jeanine Lawson (R-Brentsville) said staff misrepresented community support for the measure at the previous board meeting. Data shows the vast majority of people want to fund police; it was not at all evenly split as they were told.

More than 100 people came out to support Candland’s resolution. Candland and Lawson said they had received more emails about this issue than any other during his their years on the board. Fewer than 20 people advocated to defund the police, although they have been a consistent presence since the summer.

Yesli Vega (R-Coles) who seconded the motion, said the board members all say they supports the police, yet the motion failed. She said you either support the police, or you don’t. She thanked Prince William officers for their service. She is former Prince William County Sheriff’s Deputy and police officer.

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