Halt the Vienna Police Department Construction Project pending a commission report.

Halt the Vienna Police Department Construction Project pending a commission report.

0 have signed. Let’s get to 2,500!

Sam Ressin
Sam Ressin signed this petition

Dear Vienna Town Council,

The immoral and unjust murders of Black people at the hands of police have made the need to address the ever-present issue of racial injustice in our country all the more acute. Most recently, these injustices include the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery, among countless others. This evil is the manifestation of the centuries of colonialism, slavery, Jim Crow laws, and mass incarceration implemented throughout the history of the United States, and especially throughout the history of Virginia. It is also a product of the centuries-long legacy of policing and racial violence, and the painful history of law enforcement being weaponized against people of color. The Town of Vienna has declared its solidarity with its diverse communities and its support for positive change, but words are empty without taking action. Now is the time for the Vienna community to critically examine, question, and reassess the roles, power, equipment, and funding given to law enforcement.

Currently, the Town is slated to begin development of the Vienna Police Department Construction Project during the fall of 2020. This project would create a new 29,000-square foot police station with three stories. The new building would be much larger than the existing police building located at 215 Center St S. Approximately $14.6 million is left to be spent on the construction of the new police building. 

Making such a significant budgeting decision regarding community safety mandates the input of all constituents, especially that of Brown and Black people, whose insights and lived experiences must be heard by Town leadership. The way Vienna protects its citizens must be critically reexamined. Other municipalities have taken important steps toward positive change after recognizing that policing as it currently exists is unsafe. A significant portion of our community feels the same way, especially in light of the recent murders cited above and our collective understanding of law enforcement’s role in perpetuating racism.

The Town of Vienna has promised to host a community conversation “about the impact of the unwarranted loss of Black lives across the country and Vienna’s goal to create a culture of equality.” As important as this community conversation will be, it is only the first step in this necessary reexamination. By initiating multiple conversations, the Town of Vienna can gather ideas and actions to reimagine the way Vienna protects its citizens. A Town-recognized commission should organize and evaluate these ideas and make a formal report with recommendations to the Town Council for adoption. The status of and need for a new police station should be reconsidered in this report. This community engagement process, beginning with community conversations and producing a formal report, is the best way to involve all Vienna residents in building a more just model for public safety.

The Town of Vienna must formally engage with the community before deciding to allocate more resources to the Vienna Police Department. This vital and urgently needed reexamination must include reconsideration of the Vienna Police Department Construction Project. Therefore, we are calling on the Vienna Town Council to halt the Vienna Police Department Construction Project until after the creation of a commission report on the issue of racial justice in policing and safety in Vienna. Hosting the promised community conversations and conducting a commission report before making this significant budgeting decision regarding the Vienna Police is a required step toward inclusivity, safety, and justice. Given the unjust and archaic nature of modern policing, it is wrong to enhance policing and increase taxpayer funds on policing without full community input. 

Vienna has long been silent, and thus complicit, in racism within our community and beyond. As Virginians, we share in the abhorrence of the evils of racism and unite in deep grief for its victims. It is everyone’s duty to preserve the inalienable human rights of all members of our community. Regardless of whether some feel uncomfortable about addressing the historical burden of slavery in the United States as well as confronting and eliminating our own racial biases, we have a communal obligation to do so immediately. Racial injustice is here and now, and all of us must be an integral part of combating it. This reexamination is long overdue. As the Equal Justice Initiative has said, “to overcome racial inequality, we must confront our history.”

Prove to us that you, the Town of Vienna, will uphold your promise to “support your desire, your need to do something that peacefully honors George Floyd and seeks positive change,” by halting the decision on the Vienna Police Department Construction Project until we have meaningful, Black-led, community-wide conversations about racial justice and policing in Vienna.

Sincerely,

The Vienna Community