Fairfax County is fortunate to be the safest jurisdiction of its size in the country. This is the result of many factors including a superior public safety system. Our first responders – police, fire and EMS – enter harm’s way every day in order to keep this county safe. For that, we as public officials owe them gratitude and respect.
Fairfax County is committed to finding ways to enhance and improve how we serve our community, especially when it comes to building public trust between our residents and our public safety family. I created the Ad Hoc Police Practices Review Commission just over a year ago in order to enhance the public trust. The commission met for seven months and adopted a slate of recommendations in mid-October. A tremendous amount of progress has already taken place to implement many of these recommendations.
As was covered by this paper (www.ConnectionNewspapers.com) all sworn patrol officers have completed the classroom portion of the training for a new critical decision-making process for the Fairfax County Police Department, and the scenario-based practical portion is underway. It emphasizes de-escalation and sanctity of all human life, two key underlying aspects of the Ad Hoc Commission’s recommendations. The training includes seven core principles: be balanced; be real; control yourself to control others; be smooth; be empathetic; create lasting positive effects; never humiliate. Chief Roessler has made annual training in this process a priority.
The Police Executive Research Forum (PERF) has asked FCPD to help design a national syllabus based on the FCPD’s efforts.
The Chief of Police has reorganized the Police Department's Public Information Office which is now called the Public Affairs Bureau (PAB). The PAB will increase transparency through more robust communications to the community, and the department is in the process of hiring a civilian director of the PAB.
A tremendous amount of progress has been made (and shared with the public) on implementing recommendations related to mental health. For more information on the establishment of Diversion First, including the establishment of the Merrifield Crisis Response Center you can go to http://www.fairfaxcounty.gov/diversionfirst/. The ongoing implementation of Diversion First covers numerous Ad Hoc Commission recommendations. Fairfax County’s Advertised Budget for FY2017 includes $7.5 million for the mental health diversion program Diversion First and for a number of recommendations made by PERF and the commission.
During the months ahead our board will continue work toward the implementation of additional commission recommendations, specifically, the establishment of an Office of Independent Police Auditor, as well as an Independent Civilian Review Board. Anyone interested in following the board’s progress is welcome to attend our Public Safety Committee meetings.
This is a committee of the whole — all Board of Supervisors are the members. Meetings are held at the Government Center in Rooms 9/10 and are open to the public. The next meeting will be held on May 10 and will focus on the use of force and communications recommendations. Representatives from PERF will be present. The PERF Use of Force report can be found on the county website (http://www.fairfaxcounty.gov/policecommission/materials/fairfax-county-police-dept-final-report-june19.pdf). The PERF report on communications will be completed and distributed by mid-April, prior to the Public Safety Committee meeting. The next meeting of the Public Safety Committee meeting will be on July 19 at 1 p.m. and will focus on the civilian oversight recommendations.
I am proud of the work that has been done since the Ad Hoc Commission delivered its report to the Board of Supervisors in October. Important culture changes are being made that require a thoughtful and deliberate approach; thoughtfulness and deliberation should not be construed as resistance or foot dragging. Our board and our Police Department are fully committed to changes and enhancements that I believe will result in Fairfax County becoming a model for enlightened and effective community policing.