Opinion: Commentary: South County Task Force Statement on Police Tasing of Gum Springs Resident

Opinion: Commentary: South County Task Force Statement on Police Tasing of Gum Springs Resident

The South County Task Force, an activist group in Mt. Vernon and Lee Districts, denounces the tasing and assault of La Monta Gladney, a black man in the Gum Springs community, by officer Tyler Timberlake from the Mt. Vernon Police Station. We applaud the police chief and commonwealth attorney for taking immediate action to release the body cam video, charge Timberlake with three counts of misdemeanor assault and battery, and suspend him and the other three officers involved.

While the response of authorities modeled the behavior we expect from accountable public institutions, we think the Fairfax County Police Department should be more mindful of the everyday encounters of its officers with or black and brown residents. Black churches and the civic association in Gum Springs, as well as the Fairfax NAACP, have for years sponsored joint police-community events such as job fairs, basketball games, and meetings. Yet at a community meeting June 8 at Harvest Assembly Baptist Church — near the site of the tasing the previous Friday — about a dozen residents spoke passionately about personal experiences with police harassment and rudeness.

It is time to address the issue of how police conduct themselves with black and brown residents straight on. Having police-community social events doesn’t address this issue. Also residents may not feel safe putting their name on a complaint against an officer that will be investigated by the police department itself.

We would like to see the department, or perhaps the civilian review board and auditor, review not only incidents of police physical aggression, but also incidents where police are being disrespectful and rude in interactions with black and brown people. This could be done by reviewing officers’ body cam videos. At the community meeting, many residents, including Supervisor Rodney Lusk, recalled a lifetime of being stopped for driving while black. Body cams would reveal instances of rudeness and disrespect.

The county knows that police treat people of color differently. An auditor’s report released in March 2020, acknowledged that the 2016 use-of-force incident data “suggests that not all individuals in Fairfax County experience police contact in the same way. This finding is consistent with a 2016 survey of Fairfax County community members in which non-whites reported more negative perceptions of the police than whites. Specifically, non-whites reported being stopped by the police in the past 12 months more often than whites. Non-whites were less likely than whites to report that they were treated fairly by FCPD officers.”[1]

County officials also know that force is more often used against Blacks. The 2019 auditor’s report says that Fairfax County Police Department data indicate that use-of-force incidents involving Blacks (who make up 10% of the population) remained around 40% from 2015 to 2017 and rose to 44% in 2018.[2] In contrast, force incidents involving Whites dropped from 39% to 33% from 2017 to 2018.[3]

The county has commissioned an academic study to figure out why that is. We suggest that while waiting for the results, it should demand that police officers treat people of color with respect, review body cam footage to make sure officers are doing this, and demote those who are not. Disproportionate disrespect leads to disproportionate use of force against people of color, as exhibited in the taser video. Neither can be allowed, period.

Last year 247 complaints were filed with the auditor. Given the fear victims must overcome to file a complaint that will be investigated by the very agency that abused them, we expect there were more incidents. The auditor and the review board need investigative powers, rather than turning complaints over to the police department.

Mary Paden, chair

South County Task Force

[1] Richard G. Schott, Fairfax County Independent Police Auditor, 2020, Public Report: A Review of the Disparity in FCPD Use of Force Incidents by Race in 2016, p. 30.


[2] See the FCPD Internal Affairs Bureau 2016, 2017, and 2018 reports available on the FCPD website.

[3] Richard G. Schott, Independent Police Auditor, 2020, Annual Report of the Fairfax County Independent Police Auditor 2019, p. 15. https://www.fairfaxcounty.gov/policeauditor/sites/policeauditor/files/assets/reports/oipa%20annual%20report%202019.pdf