PRINCE WILLIAM COUNTY, Va. (FOX 5 DC) - The death of George Floyd sparked outrage across the country and calls to defund the police. It is a debate now in the spotlight in Prince William County. Republicans are worried funds may be cut and reallocated to other social services.
Prince William County Supervisor Pete Candland pushed a resolution to eliminate the discussion of defunding the police from the 2021-2024 strategic plan. However, it failed in a 5-3 vote along party lines. All five Democrats voted against the resolution and all three Republicans voted in favor.
“It’s not uncommon for the Board of Supervisors to put up guardrails when it comes to our strategic plan; Certain issues we don’t feel that are necessarily relevant to the strategic plan,” said Candland. “I think the Board missed a big opportunity to stand with the police department.”
Candland’s resolution would have directed the strategic plan development team to “strike all language, reference, and consideration to defunding the police or reallocating funds away from the police.”
He wants citizens to keep a watchful eye on the strategic plan and budgeting process to make sure the police department is supported.
“One of the things I hope comes out of this is that people understand that the defund the police movement in Prince William County is a real movement,” said Candland.
The board’s chair, Ann Wheeler, said she voted against Candland’s resolution on the basis of first amendment rights and believes this conversation is stirring up unnecessary concerns.
“For those people who are worried that somehow we’re going to undercut our police department and the safety of our community, I would just say this was an interim step that really didn’t need to be talked about at this time and it’s a shame that the community got so fearful over this discussion,” said Wheeler.
According to an e-mail Wheeler sent to a concerned citizen, $40 million from the county’s budget was slashed due to COVID-19, but the board found a way to still support police requests even though it meant putting other service requests on hold.
Candland said the county received hundreds of comments from citizens and only 12 people mentioned they would want money to be reallocated from the police department to other services.
“This is not something the vast majority of the citizens of Prince William County want and their strategic plan team is supposed to reflect the desired goals and outcomes of the community at large and that’s why I felt it was important the strategic plan team stop spending time on the concept of defunding the police and work on the concepts and issues that the vast majority of our community want,” said Candland.
Wheeler said recommendations for the strategic plan are expected to be made ahead of February.
“I’m a big supporter of our police department. I’m looking to see what they (the strategic plan team) come back with when it comes to safe and secure communities. When our strategic plan comes back with their recommendations, then I’ll evaluate what they’re going to say.”
Prince William County just announced the hiring of current D.C. Police Chief Peter Newsham. According to the board, he was asked about his stance on defunding the police during the interview process. They said Chief Newsham is against it. However, the board will listen to community input, but the plan is not binding so they will ultimately make the final decision.