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Give Nick a Chance

Local resident formed Citizens' Coalition for Police Accountability in the wake of two incidents involving police.

Nick Beltrante is a crusty ol' hoot, and he is a man on a mission. 

In 2008, Ashley McIntosh was killed when a police car crashed into her vehicle as she was crossing Richmond Highway. A year later, the police were involved in the fatal shooting of an unarmed motorist named David Masters. In both cases, the Fairfax police disclosed very little information about the events. Outraged, Nick formed the Citizens' Coalition for Police Accountability, an organization suggesting that civilians review complaints against the police. The CCPA has a board of directors that meets every month, they’ve got a small budget and they are pretty good at getting press. And they are getting nowhere. 

For several years, Nick has communicated constantly with Sharon Bulova, the Chairman of the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors, numerous police representatives and Mount Vernon District Supervisor Gerry Hyland. As far back as May 13, 2010, Ms. Bulova said in a letter that “there could be a place for some kind of a citizen body that could be a constructive forum for these issues.” The next month, she said that the Board had discussed the concept of a review board with Police Chief Rohrer and that the Chief “agreed to consider a process for community discussion on how such a review mechanism might be structured.”     

Almost two years later, not much has happened. The police have not met with the CCPA. And, recently, when Nick wrote again to Ms. Bulova urging action she said that she would forward a copy of his letter to Chief Rohrer and Supervisor Hyland “so that they are aware of this correspondence.” In the meantime, Supervisor Hyland did have a very brief hearing in his Public Safety Committee a while ago and there was some talk about having an auditor review the cases but, again, there has been no substantive movement. 

Uh, what is going on here, folks?      

Now look, I am not naïve. I have no doubt that the police probably don’t want a curmudgeon like Nick Beltrante looking over their shoulder all the time. I mean, get real, no matter what job you have, would you want another group of people constantly reviewing what you do? Who wants to put up with the almost daily questions, the copying of files, having to go to yet another evening meeting?  And, yes, to take the more cynical approach, if you happen to be covering your butt on something, who wants a bunch of nosy citizens overseeing what you do?    

On the other hand, Nick may just not be approaching this issue the right way.  For example, a “White Paper” produced by his group is subtitled “Abolish the Police State.”  I’m sure that one made Chief Rohrer feel all warm and fuzzy inside, huh?  So, I can see how the police might be concerned that Nick and his folks would be on a permanent fishing expedition, digging for dirt.   

But the bottom line is that the CCPA just wants to start a substantive conversation about the issue and that hasn’t happened yet.  Ideally, they would love to have Supervisor Hyland put together a meeting of all the parties.  That’s something that the Supervisor Hyland does all the time – he gets antagonists into his conference room and plays referee to sort out the facts to move things in a positive direction. And he is very good at it. That is what Gerry should do at this point. What’s the harm in having a meeting to see if there is any common ground here?

Nick Beltrante is an ordinary citizen who has worked very hard on this serious issue. He at least deserves the courtesy of a meeting with the appropriate parties to air out the matter.    

DAVE March 27, 2012 at 03:31 PM
Call me a cynic but this thing has as much chance of taking off as I do. Let's face it, the police don't want to be accountable to anyone. Just like our government. Civil liberties are slowly being sucked away in the name of "freedom" and the cops are loving every second of it. I was recently driving down the Parkway on my way to a Caps game when I was pulled over for "speeding". I wasn't speeding, but this officer berated me for not stopping on the Parkway as soon as he turned his lights on and threatened to arrest me. I'm not the brightest bulb in the box but if you think I'm stopping on the GW Parkway during rush hour you've lost your mind and I told him that. So he goes back to his car comes back and says (I swear to God I'm not making this up) "due to my ignorance today I forgot my ticket book." I laughed in his face. My point is, the police don't need an excuse to do anything they can make it up as they go along. The day is coming when they'll shove a chip up our butt so they know what we're doing 24/7. The more I think about this the more I believe the line is becoming more blurred with who the real criminals are.
John M March 27, 2012 at 04:40 PM
Wow - I am thankful the police are out there busting their butts to keep citizens like you safe. Have some respect. And really? You laughed in his face? That's mature. The Park Police don't just pull people over for fun. Most men/women in uniform work hard and don't earn enough money for the crap they put up with. And Ron - I suggest that you do a little more research concerning Mr. Beltrante (his past is not as clean as he portrays). You joke around about him being a "crusty ol hoot", but there's a lot more than meets the eye with him and the police/county should not touch that organization with a ten foot pole.
Mike March 27, 2012 at 10:03 PM
The CCPA's website reads like that of an ambulance chasing lawyer. There's not a bit of it that would lead me to believe they really aim to be collaborative and productive in a discussion with the police. Chief Rohrer is smarter than to engage with people like that.
DAVE March 28, 2012 at 11:19 AM
That makes one of you John. Yes, I laughed in his face and told him the next time he pulled so0meone over he better have more than some lame excuse like speeding. Just because you wear a badge doesn't make you right and it doesn't give you the right to be rude and it certainly doesn't give you the right to infringe upon my rights. I am so tired of the poor old underpaid, overworked, under appreciated policeman line. Please. If you feel you're underpaid, under appreciated, and overworked go bag groceries at Safeway. The police are a necessary evil. Is Mr. Beltrante's organization the answer? Not sure about that but we do need something to hold the FCPD accountable to the citizens.
Ron Fitzsimmons March 28, 2012 at 04:15 PM
Mike, that's why I said that they need to change their approach if they hope to get anything done.
MSandyDogg March 28, 2012 at 07:28 PM
Is it a "they"? Or is CCPA just one guy?
MSandyDogg March 28, 2012 at 07:33 PM
Make it two, Dave. Police work is a risky and necessary job. If you disagree with an officer's actions, that's fine. But that doesn't mean he is less deserving of your respect for the sacrifices he makes every day protecting people like you...and me
MSandyDogg March 28, 2012 at 07:38 PM
Hmmm...you sure? Your headline says "Give Nick a Chance," not "Nick, Try a Different Approach."
George William March 29, 2012 at 03:58 AM
The CCPA a developing organization that has monthly meetings and is led by a Vice President, a Secretary, and an Executive Director. It is responding to police misconduct and negligence that needs the attention of all citizens. The CCPA would like to cooperate with the police department to improve citizen understanding and support of the police by establishing a citizens police review board. Such a board could be broadly representative of all citizens. Many areas have long-standing citizen police review boards. The current newsletter of the CCPA states: "The CCPA is a pro-police community citizens group that is grateful to the majority of our law enforcement officers who make our community a safer place for all of us." I am working with this organization and I am not a leader of it.
maret March 29, 2012 at 03:58 AM
the ccpa is simply trying to increase the safety of the people of fairfax county. Public servants should be held accountable for their actions, and transparency of government is essential to democracy. Like the state of Virginia, (cited in recent press reports as ranking at the bottom of the list of states) , Fairfax County gets an "F" iwhen it comes to transparency and accountability, particularly with respect to actions by the Police Department... The continuing refusal of the Board of Supervisors to address the issues raised by the CCPA is shameful.
DAVE March 29, 2012 at 11:14 AM
Yes, policemen are a necessary evil, but so are trash men. And please spare me the "they risk their lives" for me, blah, blah, blah. Police work, albeit dangerous, barely rates in the top 15 of dangerous professions. Trashmen, the top 10. Never ceases to amaze me how easily people will just hand over their rights.
MSandyDogg March 29, 2012 at 06:27 PM
Again, I object to your terms, and hope you aren't so hypocritical that you ever call on the police for anything. (Or, if you do, that you introduce yourself as the guy who laughs at them and calls them "evil.") Police officers are not "evil." (Nor are garbagemen for that matter.) And, granted, there may be more workplace injuries associated with trash removal (though I doubt it), but the acts of violence directed toward garbagemen is surely lower than what policemen experience. Just curious Dave, since you are so dismissive of the occupation of public safety officer: What do you do far a living? I'm a researcher. You?
George William March 30, 2012 at 03:13 AM
The attempt on the part of John M to imply that Nick Beltrante's "past is not as clean as he portrays" and to make the effort to tarnish his outstanding contributions and record of service to his community and the Commonwealth of Virginia is a shame. Nick served on the FC Criminal Justice Advisory Board, the NOVA Criminal Justice Advisory Committee, and the Virginia Security Advisory Committee. As a decorated WW II veteran, Nick served as a Commander of an American Legion and VFW Post and was chosen leader in a number of other respected organizations. As a fellow retired WDC Metro Police Officer, I have known Nick to enjoy an exemplary reputation among the citizens of his community and his many law enforcement colleagues. As Executive Director of the VA Citizens Coalition for Police Accountability, Nick is making a valuable contribution to the citizens of his community for a better and safer place for them to reside. Martin B
DAVE March 30, 2012 at 11:38 AM
Please, let's not be so serious. The majority of police officers never fire their weapon off a range and the biggest risk they run is a paper cut from writing tickets. I've had to call the police once and won't make the same mistake twice. I work on the business end of healthcare which is probably as thankless as being a cop.
hannah stacey March 30, 2012 at 01:29 PM
The CCPA is a PRO-POLICE citizens group who's goal is to get the Board of Supervisors to appoint a Police Citizen Review Board to ensure accountability and transparency within the police department. This organization wants to create better relations between the police and the citizens of Fairfax County. Hannah S.
Steve Chaconas April 08, 2012 at 12:55 AM
Ditto John! The author needs to do his home work before rubber stamping a position to form a citizen review committee. I would agree to that if I could hand pick the participants...not many qualified to look over the shoulder of Fairfax's finest. Take a look at the extremists on the Mount Vernon Council! These are the people who have too much time and their special interests at heart while they form these groups. As for laughing in the face of a police officer...I hope you don't teach this disrespect to your children!
Steve Chaconas April 08, 2012 at 01:01 AM
Dave, every time you enter a shop, a bank or leave your home, you NEED to appreciate law enforcement for KEEPING the peace! You can't be as ignorant as your comments and you can't possibly type faster than you think.

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