The Town of Purcellville is considering implementing a Community Policing Advisory Committee, an effort spearheaded by a group of local residents including former Town Councilman Nedim Ogelman.
Purcellville Mayor Kwasi Fraser told the Times-Mirror that he supports the concept as a way to bridge the gap between the police department and all sectors of the community.
“I see this as an opportunity to establish an open culture between the police department and the community,” Fraser said. “We are missing the continuous flow of ideas and recommendations and see this as participation in how we run the police department and overall government.”
Fraser stressed he would like to see a good cross-section of people representing Purcellville on the committee.
The idea of a Community Policing Advisory Committee is part of the recent national movement to raise awareness of police brutality and excessive force following the death of George Floyd and others around the country.
Councilman Ted Greenly said while he believes it is a good idea, he thinks Purcellville already has an open culture.
“The question is, ‘What are we trying to fix?’” Greenly said. “The idea itself is not too shabby, it’s worthy of a look. Many of the [police reform] ideas are for big cities, and we don’t seem to have these problems in town. Citizens are telling me there is nothing wrong with our police department.”
Councilman Tip Stinnette said he will always support community engagement.
“The heavier lift is bounding what exactly we want the [committee] to do and advise on. That is the next step in the process following the passage of the resolution,” Stinnette said.
Stinnette said the latest outline proposes that the committee have the authority to provide recommendations to reprioritize the distribution of funds within the police department and the redirection of police funding to other community-based programs.
The outline further directs the committee to hold town officials accountable when they reject the committee’s advice, he said.
“As a town, I think we need to be careful as we bound the roles and missions of the [committee] with an eye toward what is in the best interest of maintaining the safety and welfare of community,” Stinnette said.
A committee of town residents — including Ogelman, Molly Magoffin, a recent graduate of the University of Virginia and Loudoun Valley High School alum, and residents John Payne, Zach Franco and Pastor Dave Milam of St. Andrew Presbyterian Church — have been working on the proposed charter.
Town staff will then provide both a charter and updated ordinance for Town Council to consider and discuss.
After a demonstration in support of the Black Lives Matter movement in Purcellville earlier this summer, Magoffin sent an email encouraging Town Council to consider Campaign Zero’s “8 Can’t Wait” policies among other potential police reforms. The campaign is aimed at proactively preventing excessive use of force against citizens and addressing unjust policing practices.
Magoffin hopes the committee will provide a way for everyone in town to have their views on policing heard and taken into consideration by Town Council.
She said above all else the goal is to provide an avenue for communication between citizens, Town Council and the police department.
“I don’t think that the creation of the committee itself will necessarily lead to any reforms, but it could support a reform process if a call for change comes from the community. I hope it will be a catalyst for change in that it will encourage everyone in Purcellville to get involved in communicating how they want the town to be policed so that our town’s policing can be as community-driven as possible,” Magoffin told the Times-Mirror.
Purcellville Police Chief Cindy McAlister said she believes in sharing information and educating the community with how the police department operates.
“There is a lot of mystery in what we do and a whole lot goes on that people do not know about,” she said.
McAlister is hoping she will have a seat at the table in planning the new committee.
“Truly I am available to anyone at anytime. I want to be approachable. Having the opportunity to educate and hear what they would like the police department to do for their community is good,” she added.
Mayor Fraser said the process to adopt the new committee will require an ordinance change and public hearing, which will likely be held Sept. 8.