Arlington Police Union Endorses Katcher For Commonwealth's Attorney
Arlington Police Union Endorses Katcher For Commonwealth's Attorney

Arlington Police Union Endorses Katcher For Commonwealth's Attorney

ARLINGTON, VA — The Arlington Coalition of Police on Tuesday announced its endorsement of Josh Katcher for commonwealth’s attorney of Arlington County and the City of Falls Church, expressing confidence in Katcher’s ability to improve relations between the police department and the office of commonwealth’s attorney.

Katcher, a former prosecutor in the Arlington commonwealth’s attorney office, is running against incumbent Commonwealth’s Attorney Parisa Dehghani-Tafti in the Democratic primary on June 20.

The Arlington Coalition of Police said it believes Katcher can get the relationship between the commonwealth attorney’s office and the Arlington County Police Department “back on track.”

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“Ms. Tafti has had four years to work together with ACPD in a collaborative manner but has failed to do so. Each time she had the chance, she has thrown officers under the bus,” the police union said.

On Tuesday, Katcher welcomed the endorsement from the Arlington Coalition of Police.

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“Real reform and real justice require not only honesty and transparency, but also having a productive relationship with our law enforcement agency partners,” Katcher said in a statement. “There is a way to simultaneously uphold public safety, respect victims, and improve our justice system. Let’s show Virginia how it’s done.”

Last month, Katcher also received an endorsement from the Arlington Professional Firefighters and Paramedics Association, whose president said the union is supporting Katcher because Arlington is “an urban community with rising public safety demands” and it “needs a Commonwealth Attorney who champions for public safety.”

In recent years, reform prosecutors like Dehghani-Tafti have faced recall efforts and backlash from police unions and conservative politicians, who have tried to paint reform prosecutors as the reason for increases in crimes. Violent crimes, though, have also increased in areas of the U.S. with traditional tough-on-crime prosecutors.

Dehghani-Tafti said she was not surprised to see the ACPD union’s endorsement of Katcher.

“Just as the union supported my opponent, Theo Stamos, during the last election, I am not surprised Mr. Katcher has now secured the same endorsement,” Dehghani-Tafti said in a statement Tuesday.

Katcher has long touted his close personal relationship with members of the union, “going as far as to use on-duty ACPD officers to stage a fake arrest of his wife as a birthday present when he was serving as a prosecutor,” she said.

“Aside from demonstrating a lack of mature judgment, this is simply not an appropriate relationship for a prosecutor with the police department in any jurisdiction, and certainly not in Arlington,” Dehghani-Tafti said. “For our part, we will continue to maintain a professional working relationship with the ACPD, but one that is independent due to our oversight responsibility.”

In its endorsement announcement, the Arlington Coalition of Police said it has tried to stay out of the Democratic primary race for commonwealth’s attorney.

“After months of attempting to stay out of politics, Ms. Tafti has forced ACOP to speak out after hearing her comments at the May 9 debate sponsored by the Arlington County Civic Federation,” the police union said.

READ ALSO: Arlington Commonwealth’s Attorney Race Centers On Type Of Reformer

The Arlington Coalition of Police said that Dehghani-Tafti’s statement of a “healthy” relationship with the rank and file of the Arlington County Police Department “could not be any further from the truth. We cannot sit by idly while she intentionally misleads the public.”

“On almost a daily basis, members of ACOP email their union representatives with complaints about Ms. Tafti’s office,” the union said.

The most common complaints are about a lack of preparation from the prosecutors, subpoenas not being issued in a timely manner, a case getting dismissed without ever contacting the arresting officer, and a general lack of communication about cases and outcomes, the union said.

In contrast to the statement from the police union, Nassir Aboreden, deputy commonwealth’s attorney under Dehghani-Tafti, said he has worked well with the ACPD during his three years in the office and would not be able to do his job without a collaborative relationship with the police department.

“I work on the most serious cases, crimes against children and sex crimes. I have a very good relationship with detectives in that unit,” Aboreden told Patch. “The police are a central partner in that.”

In its endorsement of Katcher, the Arlington Coalition of Police said that felony arrests in Arlington have remained relatively consistent except for 2020 during the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic. What has not remained consistent is the percentage of people charged with felonies that were indicted by the commonwealth’s attorney’s office, the police union said.

In 2019, the year before Dehghani-Tafti took office, about 41 percent of people arrested on felonies were indicted in Arlington County Circuit Court, according to the police union. That number dropped to 15 percent in 2022, the police union said.

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Dehghani-Tafti’s campaign said that her office has successfully eliminated the practice of overcharging of felonies.

“Unfortunately, overall arrests have been down 24 percent since 2019 as police face staffing shortages like so many departments nationwide,” Dehghani-Tafti said in a statement. “Additionally, felony indictments are down in my term because unlike the prior administration, my office does not engage in stacking charges to force plea deals or the immoral practice of overcharging.”

During the 2019 primary race between Dehghani-Tafti and incumbent Commonwealth’s Attorney Theo Stamos, one of the main criticisms of Stamos was her office’s overcharging of nonviolent conduct in order to push defendants into pleading guilty.

Her office was two to three times more likely to charge those cases as felonies than prosecutors in Fairfax and Loudoun counties, and the City of Alexandria, according to Brad Haywood, who serves as chief public defender in the Office of the Public Defender for Arlington and Falls Church.

Trials were extremely rare in Arlington under Stamos, with only 1.5 percent of felony convictions the result of trials, a number even lower than in federal courts, which are known as “plea factories,” Haywood told Patch.

“It sounds to me like the police union expects Katcher to charge cases just like Stamos did,” Haywood said. “That is frightening. If Katcher wants people to believe he’s a reformer, he needs to disclaim the union’s support for prosecutorial bullying and the ‘trial penalty.'”

RELATED: Top Prosecutors In Arlington Question Candidate’s Reform Credentials

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