Editorial: Public Comment at Police Commission

Editorial: Public Comment at Police Commission

Come out to testify before the commission on Monday, May 18.

John Geer was shot dead by Fairfax County Police Officer Adam Torres on Aug. 29, 2013, and the outrage over the quality and timing of the release of information about the shooting led to the formation of the Ad Hoc Police Practices Review Commission, which will hold a public forum next Monday, May 18.

Geer was standing unarmed with his hands up inside the doorway to his home in Springfield when he was killed. Police had been called to the scene because of a domestic argument, and while Geer was a legal gun owner, as are one-third of all Virginia residents, no crime had been committed. Aside from the officer who shot Geer, four other officers on the scene told investigators that same day that they were shocked by the shot that killed Geer and thought the shooting was unnecessary. (One officer described his first reaction: “WTF.”) Geer made great effort to be predictable in his actions, asking permission to scratch his nose, otherwise keeping his hands up on the doorframe.

Still it took a year and a half and a court order before police officials released the name of the officer who fired the shot and about 11,000 pages of documents related to the investigation. Reading the details of the investigation, it was easy to feel that the meager police statements in the meantime had been deliberately misleading.

In January 2015, just before the statements of the other officers were released because of the court order, Police Chief Edwin Roessler released this update with the name of the officer: “Geer was reported as having multiple firearms inside the home, displaying a firearm that he threatened to use against the police, and refused the officers’ requests that he remain outside and speak to them. Officers, including a trained negotiator, attempted to peaceably resolve the situation. They spoke with Geer for more than 30 minutes as he stood in the doorway of his home. When Geer began lowering his hands at one point during the negotiations, PFC Adam Torres fired a single shot that struck Geer.”

It was public concern about the huge delay in any information released, and the inconsistencies between police releases and the investigative record that resulted in the Board of Supervisors forming the police review commission. The commission has undertaken a broad review of police policies and practices but will not report on the Geer shooting itself.

The Ad Hoc Police Practices Review Commission is holding a public forum on Monday, May 18 at 7:30 p.m. in the Fairfax County Government Center Board Auditorium. Members of the public may sign up to speak by filling out the online form, or by calling the Clerk to the Board’s office at 703-324-3151. See www.fairfaxcounty.gov/bosclerk/speaker_bos.htm