Draft reports submitted to the Prince William Co. Racial Justice Panel

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Draft reports from the Prince William County’s Racial and Social Justice Commission generally commend the county’s practices and recognize areas where growth and further study are needed.

This article was written by WTOP’s news partner InsideNoVa.com and republished with permission. Sign up for InsideNoVa.com’s free email subscription today.

Draft reports from the Prince William County’s Racial and Social Justice Commission generally commend the county’s practices and recognize areas where growth and further study are needed.

The committee’s three draft reports were presented to the Commission on November 18 at a meeting that was marked by disagreements, heated discussions and personal taunts, which left members visibly angry and frustrated.



The reports were displayed on screens at the meeting but were not immediately made available to the public. InsideNoVa obtained copies of the post-meeting reports by filing a motion under the Virginia Freedom of Information Act.

The committee has the task of submitting a report that examines the “state of racial and social justice for people of color” in the district and makes recommendations to the district government. The focus is initially on police work, the “provision of government services” and public education.

The report of the Government Services Committee was most direct with its overall results.

“The [committee’s] Overall Assessment… found that the programs and plans of the PWC services were for the most part exceptional, ”the report reads. “We did not find any systemic / structural discrimination or social injustices. However, it is [committee] does not claim that there is no systemic / structural discrimination or social injustice, but only the data during this discovery did not make such a claim. “

The meeting got off to a bumpy start when the Commission debated a “special regulation” to regulate how the discussion of the committee reports would take place at both the November 18 meeting and the next in December. The commission spent more than an hour arguing over the wording of the document and recommending changes or additions.

The order should limit the presentations to 20 minutes each, followed by two three-minute sections for questions or comments from each commissioner. That structure quickly flew out the window as the speakers passed their time, arguing about fairness, and debating items in the draft reports.

education

One of the most controversial committees and expected reports concerned the education system, particularly the school resource officers. However, the report does not contain any recommendation to terminate or continue the SRO program.

Instead, it is recommended to look into what other jurisdictions are doing instead of SROs and see what impact those decisions have as more data is collected.

Although the committee did not make firm recommendations on SROs, the Brentsville Commissioner, London, told Steverson that the county should “investigate” to remove them from schools.

“At first I was against the SRO program because I don’t like it when young people are exposed to the criminal justice system,” he said.

The report found differences between students who are disciplined in schools and recommended an examination of the school department’s disciplinary practices. He also recommends more transparency in teacher placement, Title I funding and accountability measures.

police

The police committee largely praised the district’s increased transparency in the data, but noted that people of color were disproportionately exposed to violence and arrests compared to their representation in the population.

The committee recommended that the county hire an independent contractor to review the department’s policies and practices on the use of force.

The police were also recognized for their crisis intervention training and co-responder unit, which provides psychiatric services in response to certain service calls.

The report found the department lacked community diversity. Police Chief Peter Newsham said that of the county’s 663 sworn officers, 75.3% are white, 11.3% Hispanic, and 8.7% are black.

For comparison, according to the 2020 US Census, the county’s population is 41.7% White, 25.2% Hispanic American, and 20.2% Black.

Government services

According to the government services report, the “most worrying” point was that only 1,573 residents completed the county’s 2018 community survey.

“The majority of the presentations did not raise any significant concerns for government services,” the report said.

The government services report briefly mentions the county’s planning department but makes no mention of rural areas where development is limited.

The report commended Human Resources for removing criminal record questions from applications, removing hurdles to employment, and maintaining a low turnover rate.

The committee recommended that the county reach out more to minority communities in order to improve diversity.

The committee also made recommendations on increasing affordable housing, upgrading the juvenile detention center, and promoting diversity in leadership positions.

January 6th reference sparked debate

The first extremely heated exchange came at the end of the Police Committee’s report.

The confusion that led to ongoing arguments throughout the night comprised a single sentence.

The report reads: “In part due to social justice challenges in 2020/2021 (i.e. Defund the Police, mild penalties for convicted capital). [sic] Insurgents who attacked police officers, COVID-19 vaccine mandates), the wear and tear from retirements and resignations is higher than usual (PWC Police Human Resources Data). “

Prince William has not implemented a vaccination mandate for its employees, nor has the Board of County Supervisors cut funding for the police department.

Steverson opposed the mention of penalties for those convicted of the attempted January 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol. He called it “more of a joke than a riot”, “a spectacle that lasted only a few hours” and that it “caused minimal damage”.

According to prosecutors, the attack resulted in damage of $ 1.5 million.

the Cline Center for Advanced Social Research at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign classifies January 6 as an attempted coup. The center says the attack was “an organized, illegal attempt to intervene in the transition of the presidency by removing the power of Congress to confirm the election”.

Many of those convicted and accused in the riot have expressed their intention to stop certification of the 2020 presidential election.

Describing the shooting of Ashli ​​Babbitt that day by the US Capitol Police as “tragic”, Steverson said, “Nobody was charged, nobody was even named” when she was shot.

Lt. Michael Byrd has identified himself publicly like Sagittarius earlier this year.

“The January 6th incident was a celebration that ran amok,” Steverson said. “It wasn’t violent.”

Neabsco Commissioner Christopher Frederick Sr., a former police officer and chief of the police committee, was visibly angry and loudly condemned Steverson’s comments.

“I don’t think it was a joke that happened in the Capitol. People died. The officers died, ”he said. “I would urge you to ask one of these officers’ widows if it was a joke.”

Frederick said he would categorize the attack as a riot rather than a riot, but insisted it was not peaceful.

“These people weren’t just out to have a good time,” he said. “You were there to hurt these officers.”

‘Shame on you’

Frederick’s comments exceeded the allotted three-minute time frame, but he was allowed to continue. That created further problems.

Coles Commissioner Mac Haddow said the rules are not enforced equally everywhere. Gainesville Commissioner Erica Tredinnick attacked Chairwoman Shantell Rock’s compliance with the rules and kept talking about them.

Haddow also said the county staff are biased in their work with the commission.

“We have a problem that I think these staff are out of control,” he said.

The meeting quickly turned into several minutes, with commissioners talking loudly while some tried to keep order.

After order was restored, At-Large Commissioner Jahanzeb Akbar, the head of the Education Committee, started his report.

Following Akbar’s report, Haddow submitted a “minority report” on the work of the committee. He said he was constantly blocked and disrespectful in his search for data, adding that the committee ignored legitimate lines of investigation because they didn’t fit into the correct political agenda. He said the report lacked specific data and was largely anecdotal.

After Haddow’s presentation, a visibly frustrated and angry Akbar went on the defensive, saying his committee was taking the same approach as the other two committees.

“I got through lie after lie,” he said. “Truth doesn’t matter. … These lies are just too many to bear. “

Akbar also admonished other commissioners for failing to provide assistance in response to Haddow’s attacks.

“All these people who sit in silence, honestly, when there is no defense for what I suffered, if you sit here quietly and let me be the one to take the case and make it seem like this is a compensation tit for tat, shame on all who will do that, “he said. “

Rock gave Akbar some credit, but no others made comments in support of him. When the meeting ended, a disgruntled Akbar quickly left the building, fending off attempts to receive commendations from outside the meeting commissioners.

The commission will next meet on December 16 to vote on a full report to be submitted to the board of directors.


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