Around the Novahood


A Winchester man who admitted that he and his cousin were inside the Capitol on Jan. 6th stated that they got a handshake from a Capitol officer, who told them, “It’s your house now, man.” The individual said he was motivated to overturn the election.

Following a tip from neighbors, he was arrested on Jan. 15 in Charlottesville, charged with entering and remaining in a restricted building, disorderly conduct in a restricted building, entry and disorderly conduct at the grounds and in a Capitol building and parading, demonstrating and picketing in a Capitol building. In defense, he claimed there were no signs prohibiting his entry and thought it was OK. If convicted, he faces up to a year’s imprisonment on each charge. His trial is set for May.

It must have been the absence of the signs, not the lines of police warding off the crowds. Intelligence is rampant.


On Jan. 25, VoxFairfax published Water, Water Everywhere (, which related the actions of some local jurisdictions to shut off water to homes where customers could not pay their bills. Now, a year since Winchester stopped disconnecting water and sewer service due to nonpayment, it appears that the city council is about to again begin shutting off the tap. While Virginia has enacted a moratorium on statewide utility disconnections, Winchester can seek an exemption because the $371,176 in past-due water and sewer bills represents more than 1% of the city’s utility fund of $24 million in the 2021 budget. The proposed action involves 1,000 households or $371 per delinquency.

And according to one manager, there are questions about whether all of the delinquent accounts were caused by COVID-19. “I can look down the list of past-due accounts and many of them are the same as they were a year ago, two years ago. It’s consistent,” he said. And it gets more complicated: at least five of the delinquent accounts belong to people who own multi-family dwellings such as apartment buildings. That means the tenants of those buildings, whose utility services are included in their monthly rent payments, could lose water and sewer service unless their landlords make arrangements to pay off the outstanding utility bills. Residents are being assured, however, that as long as they come forward and make arrangements to pay, water and sewer services will not be shut off.

It would seem the city council might also refer the delinquents to social services agencies as well. The 1% rule has no justice.


To promote equity in policing, Arlington, Va., should give a civilian review board investigative and disciplinary power while reducing police involvement in traffic enforcement and mental health crises, according to a 15-member committee of advocates, attorneys, and police who spent seven months reviewing police practices locally and nationally. County officials said they will consider the proposal.

Arlington’s board should be led by an independent auditor with experience monitoring law enforcement agencies, a majority of the committee recommended. Along with reviewing internal investigations and disciplinary decisions, the board would be empowered to undertake and investigate complaints on its own, including having the power of subpoena, the group said. Such authority has not traditionally been part of community oversight of police. It was only last year that investigative review boards were made possible under Virginia law. Alexandria is also moving toward establishing a powerful civilian board, despite opposition from the mayor. At the same time, Arlington and 10 other police departments in Northern Virginia have formed a pact to investigate one another’s police shootings, in-custody deaths, and officer suicides–although three of the largest jurisdictions are not part of the agreement (Fairfax, Alexandria, and Loudoun).

A minority of members of the committee wanted a less powerful review board, offering that independent civilian investigations would be perceived by the police department “as an indication of a lack of trust.” On the other side of the argument, a professor at the University of Nebraska who studies police accountability said that civilian review boards tend to be ineffective, favoring an independent-monitor model with paid investigators.

In the mental health area, the panel recommended that all patrol officers be trained in crisis intervention, and that country mental health crisis center should be open at all times as an alternative to jail. Eventually, mental health professionals should respond to crisis calls whenever safe. Finally, in an unusual recommendation, the group said that traffic fines should be set on a “sliding payment scale . . . based on income levels and fixed expenses” to address the economic consequences of increased enforcement.

At a minimum, the report represents the deep concern of citizens about policing and community relations. An accomplishment all on its own.  Stay tuned for implementation.




Categories: AROUND THE NOVAHOOD, CIVIL RIGHTS, crime and punishment, Issues, Local, police, POLICING, politics, RULE OF LAW

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