Steven Richardson, executive director of the Fairfax County Police Civilian Review Panel for slightly less than 18 months, will resign voluntarily on Aug. 1, 2023, a county spokesperson confirmed on Monday, July 24. No reason for Richardson departure was given.
“I am extremely disappointed to learn of Steven Richardson’s resignation. Steven has been a very strong advocate and champion for transparency in the work of the panel, and relentless as it relates to community engagement,” said Dr. Vernon C. Walton, senior pastor of First Baptist Church of Vienna. “While I am not aware of all the day-to-day operations, I am extremely concerned about the narrative around the reason for the abrupt resignation and whether or not it was voluntary.”
Walton serves on the Fairfax County Police Reform Matrix Working Group. He and nine other members presented a proposed action plan on May 12, 2023, to Rodney Lusk, chair of the Safety and Security Committee of the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors. The plan was titled “Community Recommendations for More Equitable Policing in Fairfax County.”
The Board of Supervisors appointed Richardson effective Feb. 28, 2022. He previously served as operations captain for the George Washington University Police Department and also served as criminal magistrate for North Carolina’s Judicial District 26; project manager and courts and corrections senior advisor for the Cook County, Illinois Sheriff’s Office.
Fairfax County Board of Supervisors will not designate an interim director. The panel's work will be continued under the coordination of the Chairman of the Panel, the remaining panel staff members, and the help of the Office of the Independent Police Auditor, the county spokesperson said. The panel will continue to function normally and have access to all information to avoid delays in reviewing investigations.
According to Walton, the panel's effectiveness will largely be determined not by its executive director, whoever it is, but by its ability to function with full independent investigative authority, which the Board of Supervisors must authorize. The state statute now permits the panel to have independent investigative authority, but did not at the time the panel was formed.
“If Fairfax County wants to remain in the forefront, this must be done immediately. A framework has been provided by the Police Reform Matrix Committee established by Supervisor Lusk,” said Walton.
“Steps have already been taken to ensure a seamless transition until a review of the position is completed and the Board of Supervisors determines the next steps,” the spokesperson said.
The nine-member panel reviews completed Police Department investigations into complaints alleging abuse of authority or serious misconduct.
The matrix working group recommends expanding the panel’s authority:
“Effective July 1, 2021, the Virginia General Assembly gave localites the authority to substantially increase civilian oversight. Other Virginia jurisdictions of Arlington, Alexandria, Richmond and Virginia Beach have passed ordinances providing expanded authority, as have many large urban jurisdictions nationally. The State of Maryland enacted a law similar to Virginia’s, but made oversight boards mandatory.
“As such, the MWG is recommending a two-pronged approach that grants some expanded authority immediately, while also directing the CRP [Civilian Review Panel] and the IPA [Independent Police Auditor] to draft a coordinated plan for implementing full expanded authority by a certain date.”
Richardson could not be reached for comment.
For more on the Police Civilian Review Panel, see https://www.fairfaxcounty.gov/policecivilianreviewpanel/