Opinion: Justice Delayed Is Justice Denied

On Friday, Aug. 29, was one year since a still unidentified Fairfax County police officer shot and killed an innocent, non-violent, unarmed John Geer as he stood in the doorway of his Springfield home.

Fairfax County Chief of police Edwin C. Roessler, Jr. has not charged the officer with misconduct nor a violation of his department’s policies or standard operating procedures. Additionally, he has refused to disclose the findings of his department’s Internal Affairs Bureau investigation. Many Fairfax County citizens find his refusal to address this tragic event appalling and overriding the public’s interest.

Fairfax County Commonwealth’s Attorney Raymond F. Morrogh has turned over the investigation of this fatal shooting of the Springfield man to the U.S. Attorney’s office for the Eastern District of Virginia in Alexandria. Morrogh cited “complications with the case.” “There is a conflict of interest that has arisen in this case.” Morrogh also said, “and there is a second potential conflict of interest that has arisen out of my office.” Morrogh declined to describe the nature of the conflicts. Many Fairfax County citizens are asking “why didn’t Morrogh turn this case over to a Fairfax County Grand Jury that would have given the citizens of Fairfax County a voice in this matter?” They are also asking “why Morrogh failed to turn this case over to the Virginia State police for an investigation?”

In February 2014, Morrogh turned this case over to the Acting U.S. Attorney in Alexandria. After nearly six months acting U.S. Attorney Dana Boente remains silent. With all the resources of his office, including the FBI, this case remains unresolved.

During this past year, the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors has remained silent. The question is: Why? Some Fairfax County citizens have speculated the police union has had a major impact on the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors. Many criminal justice experts have long agreed that police unions have been a major obstacle to police accountability and transparency.

In contrast, the Ferguson, Mo., recent shooting death of Michael Brown by a police officer has ignited national attention. Within a few days of this incident the officer was identified as Officer Darren Wilson. Shortly thereafter, the case was referred to a Grand Jury. In less than two weeks the wheels of justice were put into motion. This incident is being investigated by state and federal authorities. The question raised is “Why have the Fairfax County authorities avoided a local or state investigation — and why haven’t they referred this matter to a Grand jury that would have allowed local citizens to have a voice in a local matter?”

The citizens of Fairfax County deserve an answer.

Since 1979, the citizens of Fairfax County have sought to have the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors appoint a Citizen Complaint Oversight Board that would accept and investigate citizen allegations of police abuse, misconduct, negligence and report its findings to the Chief of Police and/or the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors. The Virginia Citizens Coalition for Police Accountability, Inc. proposed this same request to the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors in March 2010 with no results. Why?

The author is Executive Director/Citizens Coalition for Police Accountability, Inc.