Democrats in Virginia county block public access to arrest data to foil immigration enforcement
The lone Republican on the Fairfax Co. Board of Supervisors slammed the erasure of names from public police reports as "a huge step backwards in transparency."
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Police in Fairfax County, Va. have erased the names of those arrested or charged with a crime from public crime reports to comply with a policy adopted in January by the Democrat-controlled county board to thwart federal immigration enforcement.
The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors' "Trust Policy" prohibits "sharing any information that can be used to distinguish or trace an individual's citizenship and identify or locate someone" with unlawful immigrant status, according to local reports.
The lone Republican member of the board slammed Democrats for approving the policy leading to the wiping of names from public arrest data.
"In a huge step backwards in transparency, the county deleted access to arrest data that is used to provide crime mapping and arrest data to the media and tens of thousands of members of the public," wrote Springfield Supervisor Pat Herrity, a Republican, Friday on social media.
"It shows how dangerous it is to let special interest groups dictate policy and oversee county agency actions without input from our experienced staff, our elected officials and our community at large," added Herrity, referring to anti-immigration-enforcement activists who lobbied the county for the change.
Activist groups who pushed for the policy change reportedly argued that the publicly available arrest data helped Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) target illegal immigrants for deportation after their arrest.
Herrity was the only board member to vote against the policy.
"Removing this data sends the wrong message to our community on transparency," Herrity said. "Not providing the public, the media, and organizations that utilize the data with information on crimes in our neighborhoods moves us drastically in the wrong direction. To expect people to file a FOIA request for such information is nonsensical."
Republican gubernatorial candidate Glenn Youngkin's campaign and Democratic gubernatorial candidate Terry McAuliffe's campaign did not respond to requests for comment about the policy change before publication.
A Fairfax County Police Department public affairs representative explained that the police had "proactively released weekly arrest data on the department's website" before the board of supervisors formally passed the "Trust Policy" in January of this year.
"After the policy was adopted, a review of the department's proactive public information sharing was conducted by a community group and we were directed to remove the data set in accordance with the policy," said 2nd Lt. James Curry of the FCPD Public Affairs Bureau in a statement.