Arlington Current Administration Declines Answers to Community Leaders

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Luis Castillo

City leaders including the City Manager Trey Yelverton, Deputy City Manager Gilbert Perales and Police Department Chief Will Johnson met with members of the Committee for a Better Arlington to discuss the shootings of civilians in Arlington. The meeting was a frank discussion of issues regarding the lack of city leadership in drug testing police officers directly after shooting civilians in the course of an altercation on the job. The committee represents the bulk of citizens of color in Arlington.

Committee members questioned City of Arlington leadership about the lack of existing mandatory drug testing policy in the event of a shooting. Police and civilian leadership declined to give direct answers to questions about why civilian employees are tested within 2 hours in the event of a motor vehicle accident, but Police are not tested immediately after a gun involved incident where a person may be killed. An illustration of this is the Oshea Terry shooting earlier this year. The officer in that case was not automatically sequestered to give a drug test once the scene had been secured and other personnel, including supervisory representatives, were on site.

On August 1, Maggie Brooks, who was homeless at the time, was asleep in a field. Officer Ravi Singh and other officers responded to a welfare check call on Ms. Brooks. As the officers approached Ms. Brooks, her dog ran at them. Singh, who had been trained in “canine encounters”, nonetheless shot at the dog but shot Ms. Brooks to death instead. Singh was not drug tested immediately after that fatal shooting. The dog lived.

City employee code mandates that all employees are drug tested as he or she is hired. They then may be subject to random testing every year. Discretionary testing throughout an employee’s career is in effect if a supervisor or a fellow employee witness concerning behavior. Additionally, City officials confirmed that civilian and Fire Department personnel are drug tested immediately following an accident involving vehicular damage, personal injuries, or fatalities.

City officials, including Chief Johnson, also confirmed that officers in the field are not subject to immediate sequestration and drug testing after they fatally shoot someone. Discretionary testing is not mandated in that case. The only examples they gave of discretionary testing consisted of an officer “smelling of marijuana” or “slurring speech”.

It appears that civilian and fire employees are subject to the same standards as that of police officers, while they are not involved in life threatening situations of fatally shooting civilians. A question might be asked whether a fender bender is worse for the police department than shooting an unconscious woman asleep on the ground after you have missed shooting her dog?

When the point was made with the city leadership that minority citizens’ perception of the Arlington police department was poor and people of color are afraid of their own police, Police Chief Johnson pushed back saying, “different groups have different opinions.” As members of the Coalition for a Better Arlington, the “group” we belong to demands that police officers involved in fatal shootings not be held to the same code that civilian and fire employees are but to a higher standard and be drug tested after any discharge of a weapon. We call on the Arlington City Council to intervene with this issue and find ways to address “different groups” with “different opinions” and show us that Arlington Police tactics are above reproach when dealing with deadly force

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