PRINCE WILLIAM COUNTY, Va. (WDVM) — Prince William County, Virginia is seeking public input in its search for a new police chief.
Former Police Chief Barry Barnard retired on July 1 after 44 years serving various positions at the Prince William County Police Department, according to the county. While the county continues its nationwide search for his permanent replacement, Deputy Chief Jarad Phelps is the acting police chief. According to the police department’s website, Phelps “is responsible for the planning and direction of all Department activities, and is the final authority in all matters of policy operations and discipline.”
The county sent out a survey link that will be used to identify “key characteristics, skills, traits, and issues, to facilitate the review of applicants and select the best-qualified candidate for the position.” The survey should be answered by July 23. The survey asks questions like; “What do you think are the three priorities for the Police Chief in their first year?” and “What area in the Police Department could use improvement?“
The police chief search comes during a time of some public distrust of police officers. After nationwide attention to the police killing Black Americans like George Floyd in Minneapolis, Breonna Taylor in Louisville and Rayshard Brooks in Atlanta this year, protesters around the country have been calling for accountability in police departments, as well as protests to defund or abolish police departments completely.
In Prince William County, a protest to defund the police department was held earlier this week on July 14, in front of the James J. McCoart administration building. In a joint statement to WDVM regarding the police chief search, some of the participants of the protest/Black Lives Matter movement of PWC said:
“The only thing we can do and hope for when giving our priorities for a new police chief in PWC is one that focuses on unifying us and understands how we are a majority-minority county. We need a police chief that listens and can understand all our voices and can hold the department accountable from within when the department abuses their power. Unfortunately that is what we are missing with the current Acting Chief and other police leadership, as demonstrated by events on May 30th and more recently on July 14th.”
The July 14 event mentioned in the statement was detailed in this article by PWPerspective, which says some protestors were arrested after a recorded altercation. According to a video recording of the incident viewed by WDVM, the altercation began when a man approached a protester and said he hopes they get shot. The police department said in its daily incident report from July 15 that three people from the incident were charged with assault and battery, and one person was charged with disorderly conduct. The man who approached the protester was not charged.
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