Board Member Profile:
Why this is important to me...
Rachel Harmon is a professor of law at UVA Law School. She teaches in the areas of criminal law, criminal procedure and civil rights. Her scholarship focuses on policing and its regulation, and her work has appeared recently in the NYU, Michigan and Stanford law reviews. She serves as associate reporter on the American Law Institute's recently announced project on police investigations. Rachel has recently rolled off the CPF board after serving since 2008, and she shares some parting thoughts with us below.
Why was it important for you to get involved with supporting your local police?
When I was prosecutor for the Justice Department, I worked closely with great law enforcement officers to bring cases. But I also prosecuted some police officers for excessive force or corruption. I saw both the best and the worst of law enforcement, and I became an academic in part to study ways to improve policing. Working with the CPF has allowed me to help support and sustain the high quality policing in my own community. That’s a pretty exciting thing for me to be able to do, give my professional interests and my love for Charlottesville.
What events or programs did you get involved with through the CPF?
I especially liked serving on the training committee. Since I am an expert in criminal procedure, I provided some training myself early on. More recently, the CPF has provided resources to enable the Department to bring in trainers on subjects such as de-escalation and communication skills. The CPF has also enabled officers to go to some of the best training in the country on subjects such as advanced forensics. I’m proud to have helped the Foundation do that.
I’ve also enjoyed fundraising to help the department. I know most people hate asking for money, but it’s easier when you know it’s a great cause. The first year that we raised money to help keep the Boys and Girls Club open on weekend nights, I sent out an email to some friends and raised all the money we needed in about 24 hours. How often can you make your community stronger so easily? It turns out that many folks want to give our kids a place to go, and want to encourage positive encounters between the police and the community.
Still, hands down, the best part of working with the CPF for me has been getting to know Chief Longo. We have spent a lot of time talking about policing together over the years. He often comes and speaks to my classes – which my students love -- and I do what I can to help him by commenting on policies or talking through issues. More importantly, he’s become a good friend, and I have the CPF to thank.
Any epiphanies you had about police work through your service with the CPF?
Working with the Foundation has often brought home for me in concrete terms both the challenges and the power of policing.
On one hand, I have heard some community members talk about how alienated policing makes them feel. I have seen how hard it is to recruit and retain great officers, given the pulls of other departments and competing careers. And I have watched the difficulties of making sure our department gets the resources it needs.
On the other hand, I have heard amazing stories of empathy shown by our officers. I have felt the charisma of the Chief galvanizing officers at the Awards ceremony, and I’ve seen the way police officers inspire kids at our Cops 4 Kids Day. Maybe, most importantly, I’ve heard from folks who say that Charlottesville is thriving in part because our officers work so hard to keep the community safe and secure.
Anything else you'd like to share?
Thanks for doing what you do to make our community stronger, and thanks for letting me help.