Editorial: Move Forward with Independent Oversight

Editorial: Move Forward with Independent Oversight

While FCPD has embraced many critical changes, supervisors need to move forward with oversight.

Last week, the Fairfax County Police Department posted a list and progress report of 202 recommendations made by the Ad Hoc Police Practices Review Commission, each currently labeled as one of: implemented, in progress or under review.

Recommendations that are under review “require more review or approval from the Board of Supervisors,” according to the update.

Two landmark recommendations on independent oversight await further review and approval. One is the establishment of the Office of the Independent Auditor to review investigations of death or serious injury cases involving the FCPD; the other is to establish a Civilian Review Panel Civilian Review Panel to review complaints concerning alleged FCPD misconduct.

The delay in moving forward with these two recommendations is a missed opportunity as the trial date for Adam Torres in the murder of John Geer approaches later this month, as the county will be under public scrutiny during coverage of the trial.

Chairman Sharon Bulova established the police commission in response to public outcry over the shooting death of Geer by a Fairfax County police officer, later revealed to be Torres, and the delay and stonewalling in release of any information about the incident. Geer was killed in August 2013. It took 17 months, much agitation and a court order in response to a lawsuit on behalf of Geer’s family before the most basic information was released. In August 2015, Torres was charged with murder and ordered held without bond.

The Public Safety Committee for the Board of Supervisors will meet in July to discuss all recommendations related to independent oversight. The next meeting of the Public Safety Committee is May 10 when they will take up commission recommendations related to use of force.

Strategically, the establishment of Office of the Independent Auditor should have been one of the first actions as a result of the recommendations. The Civilian Review Panel should also be an early priority. Contact Bulova, Supervisor John Cook who is chairman of the Public Safety Committee, and your own supervisor, and ask them to move forward.

Several pieces of good news: Fairfax County police leadership have embraced significant changes as a result of the commission recommendations and an independent report on use of force, changes that have already had major benefits in how police respond in crisis situations. Diversion First, a plan to provide treatment rather than jail for certain people in mental health crisis who come into contact with law enforcement is up and running, a remarkable achievement. Money has been allocated in the current budget to implement changes.

The progress report is available here: http://www.fairfaxcounty.gov/policecommission/progressreport.htm