We have positive developments in the still unexplained slaying of John Geer by a still unidentified Fairfax County police officer on Aug. 29, 2013. Fairfax Police Chief Ed Roessler refuses to release the shooter’s name or any information. Commonwealth Attorney Ray Morrogh, who is responsible for investigating police criminality but is usually more a mouthpiece for the cops, declined to investigate at all. Citing a mystery conflict of interest, he passed the case to the U.S. Attorney.
The latter says he is doing an investigation “…to determine whether the shooting involved prosecutable violations of Mr. Geer’s civil rights.” It turns out the police have not been very cooperative with either the Commonwealth Attorney or the U.S. Attorney. The latter had to litigate to get the cops to provide evidence. Meanwhile the Board of Supervisors, nominal superiors of the County cops, have stood by in craven silence for the 16 months since Mr. Geer was gunned down. John Geer’s family-father, partner, and children-waited patiently for over a year for an explanation. It never came. They recently sued FCPD for $12 million—payable by the taxpayers. Finally, a Virginia State Senator and a U.S. Senator are speaking up about the inaction by Fairfax authorities, in particular. State Senator Toddy Puller has recommended to Chairman Bulova that the “…Board of Supervisors create, appoint, and support a Citizens Review Board… to keep the Fairfax County police accountable…” She notes in her Oct. 24 letter that her constituents have concerns “about the ability of the police to investigate themselves honestly and fairly.” That is a massive understatement after 72 years have passed with many police killings, but not one single officer even charged in connection with a killing. Now, Senator Charles Grassley (R-Iowa), far from his congressional turf but with a reputation for concern about transparency in government, is sharply questioning Fairfax police behavior and lack of transparency. In response to Senator Grassley’s five written questions, Chief Roessler told him quite bluntly nothing. The Senator was not impressed with Roessler’s response commenting that “No one should be immune from accountability.” But in Fairfax County, the police remain absolutely unaccountable even as they continue to gun down unarmed citizens. One wonders where is the outrage that we have seen in Ferguson and in New York City where cops recently killed unarmed African Americans and to date remain immune from punishment. Maybe it is because in Fairfax County, skin color is not determinant. Our police are equal opportunity shooters. The common thread is lack of accountability. How can police accountability be built and citizen trust restored in Fairfax County? Here’s how. Chairman Bulova and the Board of Supervisors should: 1) promptly sack Chief Roessler; 2) create a Citizens Review Board as recommended by State Senator Puller. The CRB should be empowered to investigate complaints about police use of lethal force and abuse of residents; 3) request that the State Police take over the Geer case, name the shooter, conduct a thorough criminal investigation and make appropriate recommendations to the Commonwealth Attorney; and, 4) issue an apology to the Geer family and the public for what has transpired since John Geer’s death way back in August 2013.