You and Police Transparency

I titled this blog starting with “You” because YOU are at the forefront of change going on with the police, how policing works, and what policing will become.

In my traffic & criminal defense practice, I primarily handle these types of cases in Northern Virginia counties such as Fairfax, Prince William, Loudoun, Arlington, and in the City of Alexandria. A lot of change is coming to these areas. The first wave of change came when the people voted last November for a slew of new prosecutors who ran on a platform of being progresssive. Then, the second wave came with changing the types of charges they chose to prosecute (e.g. dismissing marijuana charges) which then helped the drive to decriminalizing the possession of up to an ounce of marijuana. Now, the third wave seems to be coming with a larger push for police transparency.

Police transparency is important for very good reasons. Those reasons are to 1) build an effective law enforcement corp; 2) keep trust with the community; and 3) have accountability. This wave of police transparency is being driven by YOU. If I were to ask what you wanted from the police, I’m guessing most of you wouldn’t know exactly what, but you’d probably want to be protected, feel safe, and be able to trust them. Unfortunately, the current tune of the country, especially in so-called progressive areas, is that protests for police transparency are largely driven by the heinous and unlawful acts of a very few officers. Many officers are not racist nor do they have biases towards the people they serve. They genuinely love their job and do a great service for their communities. In the push for police transparency, people need to be mindful that change can be slow and is most beneficial when driven by thoughtful actions rather than extreme emotions. If the changes that come are too swift and do not consider that some good things are already in place, it may end up causing unintended harm to the community.

In Fairfax County, Officer Tyler Timberlake was charged with assaulting a Black man. Videos of the encounter can be found all over the internet. Here is the latest of what’s going on with his charges: https://wtop.com/fairfax-county/2020/07/fairfax-county-police-officer-indicted-on-assault-battery-charges/. These types of incidents have prompted Fairfax County Lee District Supervisor Rodney Lusk to help launch the website (https://www.fairfaxcounty.gov/topics/police-updates) that shares Fairfax County Police law enforcement data. Reform is coming, good or bad, and it is being driven by YOU.