|Capt. Christian Quinn and Lt. Chantel Cochrane.|
Quinn and Lt. Chantel Cochrane, the station’s new second-in-command who’s also been with the police force for 20 years, spoke about those issues at the Feb. 2 meeting of the Mason Police District’s Citizen Advisory Committee (CAC).
Much of what the FCPD is dealing with now stems from attempts at reform in the wake of the 2013 shooting of an unarmed citizen, John Geer, by police officer Adam Torres
The department is currently reviewing the 142 recommendations submitted by the Ad Hoc Police Commission established after that incident, which cover the use of force, training, recruiting, communications, transparency, and accountability. Some of the recommendations require action by the General Assembly, while others are up against budget constraints, Quinn says.
The FCPD is also reviewing a report on use of force policies and practices submitted to Police Chief Edwin Roessler Jr. by the Police Executive Research Forum. Also on the FCPS agenda: a lengthy review of the department’s policies and operations as part of its efforts to seek national accreditation from the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies.
Quinn told the CAC the department needs to step up its hiring, as its five-year staffing plan calls for 130 additional positions. A new station planned for the South County area, to be combined with a new animal shelter, means all the police districts will need to be realigned.
However, the FCPD is getting fewer applicants – just 600 this year, compared to 2,000 last year. Cochrane attributes that to negative media coverage of the police in general.
Quinn says training in the police academy is being revised to put a stronger focus on ethics, the role of police in a democratic society, and the sanctity of human life.
When asked how regular patrol officers feel about negative public attitudes toward the police, Quinn says it’s “very distressing.” There’s a lot of uncertainty, as officers are not sure what’s expected of them, and there are worries about being shamed publicly or ending up in a viral video.
“We get a lot of things right,” Quinn says of the FCPD, but there is room for improvement. One such area is how to deal with people in mental health crises. It takes considerably more resources and more time to divert people to mental health services, he says When someone has a breakdown in the middle of the night, police sometimes have to drive them to a facility as far away as Staunton if there aren’t any closer beds available.
This spring, officers will receive training in new decision-making strategies that combine interpersonal communications with regular police tactics, he says.
Quinn says he’s glad to be commander of the Mason Police District because “you have a little of everything here.” He was initially supposed to start the job last May, but was waylaid by other assignments, including the World Police and Fire Games. As a result, Capt. Andy Hill has served as temporary commander for the past seven months.
Quinn told the CAC that “with everything law enforcement is going through, it’s nice to have people in your corner.”
Anyone can come to CAC meetings. They are held on the first Tuesday of the month, at 7 p.m., at the Mason Government Center.