WAMU 88.5 : News

Police Quota Controversy Highlights Lack Of Transparency In Arlington

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The Alexandria Police Department maintains that they do not have a quota system.
Kipp Baker: http://www.flickr.com/photos/mrpixure/3135421163/
The Alexandria Police Department maintains that they do not have a quota system.

The chief of the Arlington County Police Department is under fire for threatening disciplinary action toward officers who don't meet performance measures.

Arlington police deny they have a quota for officers, although Police Chief Douglas Scott says it was a mistake for  his administrators to circulate a memorandum threatening disciplinary actions for failing to meet what they call "performance measures." The memo outlines that nigh shift officers should make at least seven arrests, and issue 30 traffic summonses and five parking citations per month.

The memo states consistently failing to meet goals "could result in disciplinary actions."

Including the threat in the memo was a mistake, says Arlington County Police spokesman Dustin Sternbeck, who adds that the department doesn't view meeting these guidelines as a quota.

Police officials released a hard copy of the memo, which outlines how officers should spend time when not assigned to a dispatch call for service, to reporters at a press conference, but declined to send the document electronically. Sternbeck says the department wants to respond to criticism over the memo without providing too much transparency.

"We're not in the business of providing internal documents to, you know, the masses," says Sternbeck.

For the Arlington County Police Department and other police agencies in Northern Virginia, unwillingness to share public information is part of a well-documented pattern. The department routinely declines to share basic information such as incident reports.

Lucy Dalglish is executive director of the Arlington-based Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press. She says Arlington Police decline to respond to requests because they can: "They think that will reduce the number of requests they have to respond to, thereby saving them time and money."

Recent attempts by the General Assembly to allow more transparency have been rejected in committee before they could even reach the floor.


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