Most Arlington police officers have lost confidence in Chief Al Jones for firing an officer after a fatal shooting and union leaders took their concerns to the city council Tuesday night.
Of Arlington’s 671 officers, 362 of them, or 54%, have signed a no-confidence petition, said Chris Ceballos, president of the Arlington Municipal Patrolmen’s Association.
Ceballos said officers are upset that Jones fired Officer Robert Phillips in October, two days after Phillips shot and killed a man during a chase without conducting a proper investigation.
“The main thing that led to this was lack of due process,” Ceballos said.
Following Tuesday's council meeting, assistant city manager Jennifer Wichmann issued a statement.
"The city supports its police chief, our police force and the community," the statement said. "These are complicated matters and our leadership team is committed to working collaboratively with employees to hear and resolve their concerns."
Last month, Jones said the officer violated department policy by opening fire on Jesse Fischer, 40, in a cul-de-sac in a neighborhood near Pioneer Parkway and Collins Street when Fischer failed to stop his vehicle.
In a video released by the department, Phillips stopped his patrol SUV in the middle of the street and stepped out from behind the door, demanding the driver stop.
When the driver kept moving forward, the officer fired several shots, killing Fischer.
In a news conference last month announcing the officer’s termination, Jones suggested Phillips had several better options, such as blocking the suspect’s car in or simply letting him pass by and continuing the pursuit.
“The only time that you should be able to use deadly force is if you are protecting yourself or someone else,” Jones said. “I just didn’t get that.”
Ceballos said he’s not passing judgment on whether the shooting was justified but faults what he considers to be a rush to judgment.
Phillips was fired several days before his backup officer was interviewed, Ceballos said.
“How do you do a thorough investigation without interviewing the backup officer?” Ceballos asked.
Pinning a vehicle during a chase as the chief suggested also violates department policy, he said.
Jones declined to comment on the no-confidence vote Tuesday, a department spokesman said.
He was hired in November 2020 and started work in January 2021 after serving 25 years in the Baltimore County police department. He was the first outsider hired as chief in decades.
Arlington Municipal Patrolmen’s Association is one of two that represent officers. The other is the Arlington Police Association.
Both groups support the no-confidence vote, Ceballos said.