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Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Mason police officer injured in crash faces long road to recovery

Capt. Gun Lee speaks at his last CAC meeting.
Capt. Gun Lee’s last week at the Mason Police District was marked by what he calls the most dreaded phone call a police commander can receive: He was woken in the middle of the night with the news that an officer was severely injured in a massive cruiser accident in Annandale while responding to a police chase.

The officer suffered “major, multiple injuries and is still sedated medically,” Lee told the audience at the Mason Citizens Advisory Committee (CAC) meeting March 5. The officer’s name is being withheld but Lee did say that he is 28 years old and single and that his parents are with him. He has had two operations and is making some progress but is in for “a long recovery.”

The accident happened Feb. 28 after police were chasing a suspect from Fairfax who was speeding eastward on Little River Turnpike in the wrong lanes. The suspect’s car struck the Mason police cruiser head on as he approached the overpass over the beltway. The cruiser was totally crushed, and the officer had to be cut out of the car. The suspect, Cicero Limberea, 40, was pronounced dead at the scene.

The Fraternal Order of Police Fairfax Lodge 77 is collecting donations to help cover the costs of the officer’s long-term rehabilitation. Contributions can be made online.

As of March 9, Lee is transferring to the Fairfax County Police Criminal Investigation Bureau where he will be commander of the major crimes division. Carol Wilhite, the assistant captain of the Fair Oaks Police District, will be the new Mason District commander.

Lee thanked the CAC for its support during his three-year term leading the Mason Police District.  He said he appreciated the donations from the CAC to support a self-defense training session in Mason for 16 women who had been victims of sexual or domestic violence. “It was gratifying to see the hope in their eyes, as they were given the tools to survive,” he said.

A nationwide search will be carried out to find a new police chief, Lee said. Acting chief, Lt. Col. James Morris, will retire on March 25. Deputy Chief of Police for Patrol, Lt. Col. Edwin Roessler Jr., is expected to be named the new acting chief.

Also at the CAC meeting, officials from the Fairfax County Police Department’s Bureau of Internal Affairs (BIA) described what they do.

The investigations section of the BIA is in charge of reviewing police-involved shootings, police cruiser accidents, the use of force with serious injuries, allegations of criminal misconduct, allegations of unlawful discrimination, sexual harassment or misconduct, perjury complaints, charges of misconduct or corruption, and workplace violence, said 2nd Lt. Eli Cory.

In a typical year, Cory’s office investigates 500 incidents, more than half of them involving cruiser accidents. There were three police-involved shootings in 2012 and none so far in 2013, he said.

In one example of an investigation cited by Cory, a person charged with a traffic violation filed a complaint with the BIA accusing the officer of racial discrimination. The bureau looked at hundreds of tickets written up by the officer and found there was no basis for the complaint. In another example, the BIA found that an incident in which a recruit was involved in a relationship with her training officer was a violation of police rules.

Anyone can file a complaint to the BIA using the Police Department’s online form, via email, by phone (703/246-2793), letter, or in person.

Following an investigation, an allegation is classified as unfounded, in compliance, not sustained (meaning there’s not enough evidence to prove or disprove it), or sustained (meaning the allegation is supported by a preponderance of evidence). Only allegations that are sustained go into the officer’s personnel file. The BIA doesn’t make the final judgment, it makes a recommendation to the chief of police, who has the final say.

According to Cory, the purpose of the BIA is to maintain the integrity of the police department, ensure the authority of the police is not abused, foster trust in police leadership and officers, and ensure the police are protected from false accusations. Cory said he isn’t interested in cover ups, “if an offer is doing something he shouldn’t, I want to know about.”

The inspections division in the BIA is in charge of making sure the police department complies with state and national standards and oversees the inspections by state, national, and county auditors, said Lt. Paul Cleveland.

1 comment:

  1. This does't sound right: The article says the FOP Fairfax Lodge 77 is collecting donations to help cover the costs of the officer’s long-term rehabilitation."

    If any officer is injured in the line of duty Fairfax County should 100% cover the cost of their rehabilitation.