(Article updated June 5, 2021 to add open letter.)
The Fairfax County Democratic Committee (FCDC) called on the Board of Supervisors ("Board") on May 25 to terminate Kevin Davis's employment as Chief of the Fairfax County Police Department. In its three-point Resolution, FCDC called on the ten-member Board, nine of whom are Democrats, to reopen the search for a new chief and implement a transparent hiring process. FCDC advocated that the Board use a "racial equity decision-making framework and a community screening committee comparable to the one used in Fairfax County's 2013 police chief search."
"The mission of the Fairfax County Democratic Committee, with over 1,000 members and an even larger network of volunteers, is to advance and maintain the election of Democrats to public office here," said FCDC Chair Bryan Graham at a Press Conference the day after the Resolution's release.
"We have worked hard to elect the nine Democrats to the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors… But it is also our responsibility as the party to promote Democratic values," Graham said.
THE BOARD appointed Davis on April 23, and he assumed the position on May 3. According to FCDC's Resolution, Davis was afforded the opportunity to address concerns about policing incidents in his career on May 6, [at the County's Community Input Session]. He did not. Instead, Davis "diverted" in his explanations.
Graham said, "In the survey conducted in hiring the new police chief, Fairfax County residents raised community trust as the most important issue. To hire a candidate with any racially-charged use of force incident in their past is not starting from a foundation on which trust can be built." The Resolution cited four incidents regarding Chief Davis's professional policing history.
Two occurred in the 1990s, one in 1993 and the other in 1999. Each ended with court judgments against Davis [Prince George's County Police Department]. The other two incidents occurred during Davis's last two years in a police position [Commissioner-Baltimore Police Department]. In 2016, Davis authorized secret drone surveillance of the people of the City of Baltimore. In 2017, Davis imposed a six-day lockdown of a neighborhood after an African American Baltimore detective was killed by a bullet from his service weapon the day before he was to testify to a federal grand jury regarding corruption in the Baltimore police force.
Graham said, "A year and a day after the murder of George Floyd, we should not need to remind our elected officials that as Democrats, we believe we need to overhaul the criminal justice system from top to bottom. Police brutality is a stain on the soul of our nation."
"Therefore, in the context of the events of the last year and this moment, the Fairfax County Democratic Committee does not trust that Chief Davis is the right person to lead our police force," said Graham.
Kelly Hebron is Chair of the Fairfax Democratic Black Caucus within FCDC. She said at the Press Conference that the caucus was driven to act and hold the elected Supervisors accountable "to ensure the reduction and prevention of racially motivated violence against its diverse residents during police encounters."
"Transparency is the first step toward fairness and trust...We can do better in Fairfax County," said Hebron.
Rev. Dr. Vernon C. Walton, Senior Pastor, First Baptist Church, Vienna, stood with Rev. Dr. Denise Wilson, President, Baptist Ministers Conference of Northern Virginia, and Rev. Dr. Augustus Henderson, Northern Virginia Baptist Association Moderator. Walton said he was pleased to stand in solidarity with the FCDC Caucus to support its Resolution.
"I believe it providential that the committee would take such a bold, progressive vote on the anniversary of the death of George Floyd...Many of our elected officials, those of whom supported this candidate [Davis]...held signs...kneeled in solidarity...pledged their commitment to police reform," said Walton.
According to Walton, he heard County Supervisors say, 'If only I had known… I've heard them say that you matter, Black and Brown constituency matters. What you haven't said publicly is he [Davis] is the wrong choice. While many of you have said it privately, you have not said it publicly... Despite all that you knew and despite all of you are aware of, you forged ahead. And now you asked a community of people who have been profiled for years to give him an opportunity."
"I asked you today, Supervisors, how costly will the mistake have to be, or you're willing to admit that this was not the best decision," said Walton.
CANDIDATE for Virginia H-34, Jennifer Adeli stood in solidarity with those assembled at the May 26 Press Conference. Afterward, she said, "I was proud to vote in favor of this Resolution...and stand with FCDC and members of the FCDC Black caucus today. Every elected leader, or candidate asking the community to trust them to lead, should have an opinion on this vital issue. We need a Chief who reflects our values and the community and starts off their tenure with a clean slate. Davis does not meet those basic requirements."
A spokesperson for the office of Chairman Jeffrey C. McKay (D-At Large) Fairfax County Board of Supervisors said, "We have no comment."
Instead, she attached the May 20 open letter from the nine Democratic members of the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors – Jeff McKay-Chairman of the Board of Supervisors; Rodney Lusk-Chairman of the Public Safety Committee, Lee District Supervisor; Penny Gross-Chairman of the Personnel Committee, Mason District Supervisor; James Walkinshaw-Braddock District Supervisor; John Foust-Dranesville District Supervisor; Walter Alcorn-Hunter Mill District Supervisor; Dan Storck-Mount Vernon District Supervisor; Dalia Palchik-Providence District Supervisor; and Kathy Smith-Sully District Supervisor – sent to the members of the Fairfax County Democratic Committee.
The letter from the Democratic Supervisors to the members of FCDC read in part, "The police chief is hired by the Board of Supervisors, serves at our pleasure, and as such, his performance will be evaluated regularly. He is well aware of our expectation that he deliver smart and meaningful reforms that benefit all in our community…Chief Davis has already been talking and most importantly, listening, to members of our community. He has his line of communication open to any community member who wishes to speak with him."
Read the Democratic Supervisors Response to the Democratic Committee:
An open letter from the Democratic members of the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors to the members of the Fairfax County Democratic Committee.
May 20, 2021
Fairfax County Democratic Committee Members,
We know there have been some questions and concerns surrounding Fairfax County’s new Chief of Police, Kevin Davis. As a Board, we appreciate the opportunity to ensure that FCDC members hear from us before considering the resolution before the Committee, which we are concerned presents a woefully incomplete picture of the new chief and his ability to implement progressive reforms.
Let us address the hiring process itself. As you may know, interviews were conducted by the entire Board in Closed Session, as the Board always does. Maintaining confidentiality in the hiring process is key to attracting an experienced and diverse pool of candidates, many of whom are serving in senior roles in other jurisdictions and whose careers would be at risk if their interest in serving Fairfax County were revealed publicly.
This year’s process has been compared to that of 2013 and we wanted to take a moment to explain the differences. In 2013, there was a pre-screening panel that was made up of a small number of community members, police professionals, and police unions. This panel, however, was not responsible for any hiring action. This year, the Board was deliberate in invoking One Fairfax to design a process that attempted to ensure the voice of the broader community was heard. The pre-screening panel this time was made up overwhelmingly of individuals not affiliated with the police and was more diverse and equity driven, including the involvement of our Chief Equity Officer (a position that did not even exist in 2013).
In terms of engagement, a survey was released to the community, giving every resident of Fairfax the opportunity to tell us what they were looking for in the next Police Chief. This survey received over 3,000 responses. In addition, an extensive public outreach campaign resulted in more than 275 community meetings and calls and more than 450 emails to stakeholders. These meetings and calls ensured that the Board heard the perspectives of diverse voices, advocacy organizations, and the faith community, among others.
Chairman McKay and Supervisor Lusk also held a community input session where they heard directly from the community about the skill set they hoped our next Police Chief would have. This input session was open to every Fairfax resident and was publicized widely through our Board offices. Following all of this outreach, the Board was provided a complete summary of
community input to guide their thinking and formulation of interview questions. This summary informed what the community, and thus the Board, was looking for in the hiring of a new chief.
While we are always improving community engagement in a county of more than 1.1 million people, we are confident that this year’s process was the broadest and incorporated both extensive public input and intentional inclusivity. Regardless, we commit to looking at our entire public participation process for future personnel decisions and establishing a framework for further improvement.
Our Board, including all nine Democratic members, unanimously supported Chief Davis because of his demonstrated ability to implement reform under the most difficult circumstances, and in the face of fierce opposition. But we also understand the concerns caused by recent media coverage of incidents from early in his career. We take those incidents and that concern seriously, but believe that his commitment to robust community outreach and to advancing a comprehensive reform agenda will ensure that Fairfax County continues to lead the nation in progressive police and criminal justice reform. Chief Davis told us during the interview process, and has since reiterated with the media and in community forums, that his experiences as a young police officer in the 1990’s sparked a passion and commitment to reform the profession he loves. He recognized early in his career that some communities felt protected by the Police and some communities – all too often communities of color – felt “policed” by the Police. Those experiences and that recognition put him on a path to becoming one of the leading reform police chiefs in the nation, while earning the trust of civil rights leaders and organizations.
In fact, Chief Davis is on of a short list of large jurisdiction police chiefs who have led departments through the very reforms our County and community has implemented and continues to pursue -- body-worn cameras, establishment of a compliance and accountability division, transparency in officer-involved shootings, data transparency, co-response with mental health professionals, de-escalation training, and more. He worked with the Obama Administration to use data to reduce disproportionate policing in Baltimore, rewrote use of force policies to mandate de-escalation and a duty to intervene, and revised policies to reduce the use of electronic control weapons (tasers).
When Donald Trump and Jeff Sessions blamed rising crime rates on reform efforts and declared that “Law and Order must be restored,” then-Commissioner Davis spoke out against their rhetoric, declaring we can’t “roll back the clock on the advancements we’ve made” in police reform. When Jeff Sessions threatened to abandon the consent decree process that was facilitating reform in Baltimore and across the country, then-Commissioner Davis again spoke out and said he would continue his work to “break the culture of zero-tolerance policing.”
In Baltimore, he faced fierce criticism in large part because he pushed too hard for reform, fired bad cops, and refused to abandon reforms even when support from some political leaders was lacking. He ended stop and frisk, zero tolerance policies, and the unconstitutional practice of “clearing corners” that contributed to the mass incarceration of young Black men. His critics demanded these policies be reinstated. He refused.
For these reasons, he was praised by both the NAACP Legal Defense Fund and the Open Society Institute -- Baltimore. The Open Society Institute – part of George Soros’ Open Society Foundation -- then awarded him a fellowship that is granted to only four individuals who have "advanced social change." Chief Davis specifically was chosen to discuss how policing can be improved.
As Police Chief in Anne Arundel County, he was the first to require police officers to carry and administer naloxone (Narcan) to persons suffering from drug overdoses and created a blended Crisis Intervention Team of police and mental health professionals to deploy as first responders to calls for service likely to involve persons suffering from a mental illness and/or behavioral crises. He led the nation in working to ensure that substance use, mental health, and behavioral health are treated as health care challenges, not as criminal offenses. Developing a robust co responder model here in Fairfax County is one of this Board’s top priorities. Chief Davis is one of the few police chiefs who has already done it.
Chief Davis has received accolades and strong endorsements from civil rights, community, faith and political leaders who have worked directly with him to strengthen bonds between the police and communities of color, including former Prince George’s County Executive Rushern Baker. The former President of the Baltimore NAACP, Tessa Hill-Aston, recently told us:
“As President of Baltimore’s NAACP, I worked closely with Kevin Davis. He listened and acted. He will be a great partner to the NAACP in Fairfax as well.”
The Board fully understands that the history of policing has not centered around the safety and well-being of all members of the community. These are systemic problems that exist in the United States and Fairfax County and we do not take this issue lightly. This Board has proudly led the Commonwealth of Virginia in bringing real police reform centered around justice and equity long before these things made national headlines last summer. As you would expect, Fairfax County is ahead the curve. Over the past several years, our actions have included:
• The adoption One Fairfax, a social and racial justice equity policy
• The creation of the region’s first Chief Equity Officer
• Initiated, nurtured, and supported an active Civilian Review Panel
• Appointed and provide ongoing annual support for an Independent Police Auditor • Implemented 179 community-recommended police reforms recommended by the Ad Hoc Police Practices Review Commission.
• Approved full funding and expedited implementation of police body-worn cameras • Added funding for positions in Commonwealth’s Attorney Descano’s office • Passed the TRUST Policy to protect our immigrant community
• Led the adoption of a new Police General Order to prohibit civil immigration enforcement
• Funded a new Immigrant Liaison position to help implement the TRUST Policy • Implemented Diversion First program, which allows individuals who come into contact with our law enforcement the opportunity for treatment instead of jail
While these bold initiatives have set the standard for innovative police reforms in Fairfax County, we are successful because we never stop advancing. In that light, we remain committed to making these systems work to lift our community higher. We can assure you we will not stand for anything short of those priorities from ourselves and our Chief of Police. Our record demonstrates that time and again. The police chief is hired by the Board of Supervisors, serves at our pleasure, and as such, his performance will be evaluated regularly. He is well aware of our expectation that he deliver smart and meaningful reforms that benefit all in our community.
In closing, Chief Davis has already been talking and most importantly, listening, to members of our community. He has his line of communication open to any community member who wishes to speak with him. We encourage you to reach out to him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thank you for taking the time to read this letter. We recognize the pain experienced by many of you during the past weeks and as we always do, remain committed to improving our processes. We hope it helps you understand why each of us, as FCDC members and supporters felt that it was important that we share our thoughts on the proposed resolution. We always appreciate the support our Board has received from FCDC as we continue to move our shared priorities forward. We are proud to live in and represent a community that supports our progressive Democratic agenda.
Chairman of the Board of Supervisors
Chairman of the Personnel Committee Mason District Supervisor
Dranesville District Supervisor
Mount Vernon District Supervisor
Sully District Supervisor
Chairman of the Public Safety Committee Lee District Supervisor
Braddock District Supervisor
Hunter Mill District Supervisor
Providence District Supervisor
Not created, produced, or paid for at government expense.
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