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Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Board of Supervisors establishes Police Civilian Review Panel

The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors approved the establishment of a Police Civilian Review Panel Dec. 6 with the goal of improving public trust.

The panel will act as another avenue or “portal” for residents to submit complaints concerning allegations of abuse of authority or misconduct by a Fairfax County police officer.

BoS Chair Sharon Bulova called the establishment of the Civilian Review Panel “a positive step forward to further promote transparency and openness in community policing.”

“The Civilian Review Panel will enhance community confidence in the police by ensuring that investigations of allegations of police misconduct are reviewed by independent, qualified citizens,” said Braddock District Supervisor John Cook, who serves as chair of the board’s Public Safety Committee.

The panel was among the 202 recommendations of the Ad Hoc Police Practices Review Commission, which submitted its final report to the BoS in October 2015.

The Ad Hoc Commission was formed in response to the fatal police shooting of John Geer, an unarmed resident of Springfield, in 2013. There was strong public criticism over how the Fairfax County Police Department handled that incident. Adam Torres, the officer who shot Geer, remained on the force for two years. He pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter in April.

The only supervisor voting against the establishment of the Civilian Review Panel was Pat Herrity (Springfield), who called it duplicative and an act of “political correctness” and said it could hurt morale among within the FCPD.

The panel will have the authority to request and review completed FCPD internal administrative investigations regarding a civilian complaint against an officer. The panel may hold public meetings to review police administrative investigations and walk through with members of the community how the investigation was conducted, including findings of fact, evidence collected and witness statements.

The supervisors rejected an amendment by Supervisor Catherine Hudgins (Hunter Mill) to allow the panel to take testimony from witnesses not interviewed by the police during an investigation.

The panel will review complaints about such issues as:
  • the use of abusive, racial, ethnic, or sexual language by a police officer;
  • harassment or discrimination based on race, color, sex, religion, national origin, marital status, age, familial status, or disability;
  • the reckless endangerment of a detainee or person in custody; and
  • Serious violations of Fairfax County or Fairfax County Police Department Procedures procedures.
The panel will not address potentially criminal use of force or police-involved shootings. Cases of that magnitude would likely involve an investigation by the Commonwealth’s Attorney and would be monitored by the police auditor.

The establishment of a police auditor position, also recommended by the Ad Hoc Police Practices Review Commission, was approved by the BoS in September. The county has advertised the position and expects to name an auditor in the near future.

The Civilian Review Panel will consist of nine members appointed by the BoS. Panel members will serve three year terms with a two-term limit. All panel members will be Fairfax County residents and will have some expertise and/or experience relevant to the panel’s responsibilities.

In appointing panel members, the BoS will consider such factors as community and civic involvement; diversity; law enforcement and/or criminal investigative experience; and reputation in the community. Panel members cannot be employees of Fairfax County or current or former members of the FCPD or Fairfax County Sheriff’s Office. They cannot have a relative who works for the FCPD and cannot hold public office or be a candidate for public office.

The BoS will reach out to businesses, nonprofit groups, and other local organizations to nominate potential candidates to serve on the panel.

Several other recommendations of the Ad Hoc Police Commission have been implemented by FCPD and the BoS, including the following:
  • Establishing Division First, which has resulted in more than 300 diversions from potential criminal arrest to treatment since Jan. 1. 
  • Re-engineering police training to focus on de-escalation and the sanctity of life.
  • Reorganizing the public affairs team and hiring a full-time civilian director. 
  • Establishing a policy to release the names of officers involved in critical incidents within 10 days and providing updates on these incidents at least every 30 days.
  • Collecting and publishing key data on police interactions, including the use of force and officer-involved shootings.

1 comment:

  1. What a waste of precious resources(there are already multiple layers of redundant oversight), and yet another example of the vendetta against white male cops. Besides, this charade won't even address use-of-force cases!

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