Fairfax County Sheriff Stacey Kincaid wasted no time in bringing up the in-custody death of Natasha McKenna during her opening remarks. Kincaid said the loss of life, which occurred in February following an incident where a team of Sheriff’s deputies was attempting to transport McKenna to Alexandria police and deployed a taser on her four times, continues to weigh heavily on her.
The Sheriff and Bryan Wolfe, who is challenging her for her job, answered questions Monday night Sept. 28 as part of a “meet the candidates” event organized by the Fairfax League of Women Voters. The event took place at the studios of Fairfax Public Access and was broadcast live.
Kincaid went on to highlight that she has since banned the use of tasers in the jail, increased the use of “telepsychiatry” in the jail for inmates to receive mental health services remotely, spearheaded a “diversion first” program and made mental health training mandatory for officers in her department.
Wolfe, who has previously run against Kincaid, immediately went on the offensive, calling the state of mental health services under the Sheriff a “critical area in need of repair.” He said the death of McKenna, who had mental illness, could have been prevented if there was more Crisis Intervention Team training in the office of the Sheriff. “I gave the Sheriff warning in 2013,” Wolfe said. “She basically dismissed it.”
MODERATOR and Fairfax League of Women Voters co-president Helen Kelly asked the candidates how they would improve inmate access to services. Kincaid highlighted the first inmate resource fair held in 2014, which gave inmates the opportunity to meet with vendors offering help for becoming re-established members of society following release from the jail.
Wolfe criticised not being able to check success or failure rates of existing services at the jail because the Sheriff’s Office’s last completed and published audit was in 2013. Kincaid never directly responded to Wolfe’s asking about a 2014 annual report.
When asked if, as Sheriff, they would be part of an ad hoc review commission similar to the one currently meeting to examine policies and practices of the Fairfax County Police Department, Kincaid commented that her office is represented on the existing commission, as well as that group’s subcommittees to discuss use of force and mental illness services. “We’re always willing to be part of something,” she said.
Wolfe responded that he would “welcome witnesses to watch what we do, welcome community involvement.
“There’s nothing in the Sheriff’s Office you’ll have to FOIA [Freedom of Information Act] from me,” Wolfe added.
The other candidates who participated in the event are vying for Clerk of the Court and Soil and Water District director. Commonwealth’s Attorney Raymond F. Morrogh was invited but did not attend the program.
Bettina Lawton and incumbent John Frey went first for Clerk, answering a variety of questions including what their top priorities would be if elected.
For Lawton, an attorney, reserve deputy sheriff and part of the Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court, she focused on reviewing existing practices and procedures in the Fairfax Court. “We have to look at, is there a better way to do things?” she said.
As part of his answer, Frey emphasized the importance of continuing to engage with many different users throughout the court to make decisions about multi-million dollar projects.
Scott Cameron, incumbent George Lamb IV and incumbent Jerry Peters, Jr. discussed the role of Soil & Water Conservation District director.
Cameron said his top three priorities would be focusing on the watersheds that are in the worst condition, targeting invasive species and advocating at the General Assembly for policy and laws that work for Fairfax County as a suburban area.
Lamb listed continued good governance, working on the Chesapeake Bay by applying data with aggregate maps and finding ways to branch out and address climate change at a county level.
Peters highlighted continuing trusted partnerships, increasing the sense of personal environmental stewardship around the county and providing more useful information to the public.
AFTERWARDS, Kelly said she thought the program went “very well.”
“I think it was beneficial and educational to the community,” Kelly said. “That’s what we’re all about.”
A recording of the session will soon be available to stream through the Fairfax Public Access website at www.fcac.org.