To the Editor:
The Commonwealth Attorney of Fairfax County, Raymond F. Morrogh, has lately adopted the role of schoolyard bully who disguises his insecurities by picking on those he perceives as weak. In his desperate effort to cover up the fact that has not been up to his job as a prosecuting attorney, he resorted to bullying tactics in avoiding answers to the questions I asked him a recent Fairfax County public forum. As reported in the Mount Vernon Gazette, I asked Mr. Morrogh why it has been over 18 months to finally decide to convene a grand jury to review the facts in the police shooting death of John Geer. Mr. Morrogh ignored my questions by responding that I was out of my depth and could not possibly know what I was talking about due to my advanced age. Instead of explaining the reasons behind the 18-month delay in the case, he tried to use my age as a bullying tactic. The facts are that Mr. Morrogh has many excuses for not prosecuting the case in a timely manner but the primary reason is that he failed to develop the facts of the case. His failure of leadership is at the heart of the delay. Mr. Morrogh needs to step back and realize he has the tools to do his job without delay. I am too old, right, to engage him on this highly legal and technical matter. Well, instead of attacking me, why not come up with some constructive suggestions?
At this forum, I asked Mr. Morrogh why he has not found a single incident of police misconduct though there have been several incidents of police misconduct in the years he has served in office. This includes several police-related incidents resulting in the deaths of residents who were unarmed. At a minimum a violation of the General Order on the use of lethal force was clearly a factor. Three wrongful death suits were filed in the past several years in which the county paid millions of dollars on out-of-court settlement awards. There could have been more. If there was no misconduct as Mr. Morrogh’s inaction suggests, why the out-of-court settlements? Mr. Morrogh’s actions or inaction makes one question who Mr. Morrogh really represents — certainly not the families of the victims of alleged police misconduct.
When a suspicious shooting occurs in Fairfax County, Mr. Morrogh should do his job and immediately begin an investigation in an effort to bring about justice in a fair and impartial way. The voters selected him to solve problems, not make excuses. We need to feel assured that our law enforcement people are using their authority to use lethal force wisely and judiciously, not abusively. We want to work with and feel confident in the integrity and discipline of our police, not fear them. If Mr. Morrogh did his job well, he would be an essential ingredient in protecting and assuring our community by vigorously investigating police misconduct if and when it occurs.
Therefore, I am asking Mr. Morrogh again: Why has it taken your office 18 months to finally convene a grand jury to look into the John Geer shooting death? Ane while we are on the subject, why didn’t you find misconduct in the unarmed shooting deaths of the Culosi and Masters shootings, or several other highly questionable police shootings of unarmed citizens? I may be 87, but I know when a person is doing his job and unfortunately for all of us right now you are not and you know it.
You have a unique and historic opportunity to ask yourself, how can I improve my performance and avoid delays and move forward so that in the future there is no repeat delay in investigation and possible prosecution? Timely action in your office will be a crucial step in improving police-community relations where it counts — investigation of alleged police misconduct.
Having said all of that, and getting it off my aging chest, I propose that you move forward and collaborate on recommendations to improve police-community relations, hire skilled and disciplined police recruits, remove police who prove to be inadequate to the job, install body cameras, and research the benefit of creating a Citizen Complaint Oversight Board. Let’s get working to come up with meaningful changes in police policies and practices. Mr. Morrogh must respect the senior citizens of Fairfax County and not criticize them for their age.
Nicholas R. Belrante
Virginia Citizens Coalition for Police Accountability, Inc.