Author: Katelyn Waltemyer
With policing being a crucial topic and the election only weeks away, The Citizen is co-sponsoring a deliberative forum about policing because many citizens have engaged from different sides of the issue and with different perspectives. Here’s a timeline of some key events and developments regarding police in Harrisonburg over the last few months.
When we began a project this spring to study if Harrisonburg and Rockingham County residents could find common ground on contentious, politicized and polarized issues, we were nervous that we might find what we feared: the Valley is too politically divided to solve its more pressing problems.
With JMU classes scheduled to start Aug. 26, the university has published reams of new guidelines about masks and apps and quarantining that all depend on one thing in order for the campus to remain open: students, faculty and staff self-policing each other. ,l
A month after coming up with the idea for a new citizen-driven commission to push for racial justice in the Valley, organizers of the new People’s Equality Commission of the Shenandoah Valley are setting their sights on creating public forums to amplify residents’ voices.
Back in the early days of COVID-19, neighbors Josie Showalter and Seán McCarthy were walking their dogs when the conversation shifted to the pandemic’s economic effects. Showalter, the manager of the Harrisonburg Farmers Market, told McCarthy, a JMU professor, about how customers were staying home — and away from the farmers market.
Over the course of two years, 9,587 people were arrested in Harrisonburg, and during that time 86 encounters involved use of force— amounting to less than 1% of the arrest totals. But the confrontations in which an officer used force beyond handcuffing a person disproportionately involved black people, according to arrest and use-of-force data the Harrisonburg Police Department released Friday.
Even after Harrisonburg’s police chief has spent much of the nearly two years in the job reviewing and implementing department policies, the efforts haven’t prevented black JMU students from fearing the police.
Since mid-March, many local businesses closed their doors, but with Virginia’s Friday launch of Phase 1 reopening, many owners are unlatching their doors or have developed alternative ways to serve customers. The Citizen contacted more than a dozen businesses to find out how they’ve approached the challenges of the stay-at-home order and are adjusting to Phase 1 reopening. And there’s a range of ways local businesses are adjusting to survive.