The Arlington Select Board, during its Wednesday, February 23, 2022 meeting, unanimously approved a proposal by the Civilian Police Advisory Board Study Committee to create a permanent Civilian Police Advisory Commission to provide opportunities to increase trust between residents—particularly, though not solely, those who are LGBTQIA+, BIPOC, and/or living with a disability—and police.

The Study Committee was created by the special 2020 Town Meeting to determine, in part, whether the town would benefit from the creation of a permanent Civilian Police Advisory Commission. The Study Committee has 17 members. Seven were appointed by various town boards and commissions including the Rainbow Commission, Envision Arlington Standing Committee, the Envision Arlington Diversity Task Group, the Human Rights Commission, the Disability Commission, the Board of Youth Services, and the Council on Aging. The Rainbow Commission’s appointee to the Study Committee has been co-chairing the Study Committee since last March. 

The Study Committee has met 16 times since March and also held 14 listening sessions with town residents and employees, including one for LGBTQIA+ residents last November. Among the Study Committee major findings were the following: 

  • The Arlington Police Department’s Professional Standards Unit, which investigates complaints from the public, stands out among comparable communities for the thoroughness of its work. Each and every complaint that comes to the department, regardless of how it is communicated to the department, is thoroughly investigated. 
  • Second, some of the complaints and concerns held by residents are never communicated to the police. 
  • Third, without exception, each of the instances the Study Committee learned of by which residents had complaints but did not feel comfortable reporting them to police involved residents who are Black, Asian, LGBTQIA+, and/or living with a disability. 

The 2022 Town Meeting, which will be held in April, must give final approval to the proposal to create a permanent Civilian Police Advisory Commission.