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Letter: Police Lack Oversight

To the Editor:

— I am writing once again to express my dismay that Fairfax County still does not have an independent Police Oversight Review Board despite numerous past recommendations for the creation of such an organization.

I no longer live in the county, but I am the father of David Masters. David was shot to death by a Fairfax County police officer on Nov. 13, 2009 while sitting in his truck at a stop at the intersection of Route 1 and Fort Hunt Road. I don’t know any more about the circumstances of this grim fatality now than I did then and now, as then, the records of this tragedy are not available to anyone outside the police department. The officer who shot my son was ultimately and I must say secretly fired by the then police chief, David Rohrer. But even that was done without any admission of culpability by anyone in the county.

I don’t understand why the Virginia Freedom of Information Act gives blanket exemption to police matters, and I would change this if I could. But this, in reality, is another reason why the creation of a Fairfax County citizens police review board is so important. As it is now, the police department can, and seemingly does, operate in a culture of complete autonomy without fear that its actions will be held up to any kind of scrutiny. I have pointed out before, and I will point out again, a citizen’s review board would not only protect the public from unjustified actions by the police, it would protect the police department from unjustified criticism by the public.

I am aware of a recent letter to you from Nicholas Beltrante, executive director of the Citizens Coalition for Police Accountability in Fairfax County, and I fully support the objectives of this organization; however, I disagree with his premise that you should look for a new police chief who supports the creation of an oversight board. That responsibility is yours and you should exercise it regardless of what the police chief thinks should be done. Obviously the sooner you get on with selecting a new police chief the better.

Barrie P. Masters

Sanford, Fla.