Column: Greater Transparency in Policing

Column: Greater Transparency in Policing

Fairfax County Police embrace change, sanctity of life for all.

Dear Community Members:

The Fairfax County Police Department was established on July 1, 1940 and today we have an authorized strength of 1,406 sworn law enforcement officers. Our greatly engaged community exceeds 1.1 million residents which continues to assist us in preventing and fighting crime, increasing the culture of safety to preserve the sanctity of life for all, and to keep pace with rapid urbanization.

Your Police Department proactively undertook an independent review of its use of force training, and related policies and procedures conducted by the Police Executive Research Forum. A further review generating additional change recommendations has been conducted by the County’s Ad Hoc Police Practices Review Commission. The core theme of change is adopting the philosophy of the sanctity of life in all we do. As I have discussed in multiple public forums to include the Public Safety Committee of the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors, your police department embraces reengineering the law enforcement profession and we are proud to be national leaders truly engaged with creating change with an engaged community.

The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors has endorsed our reengineering of the policies governing the use of force which value the sanctity of human life. The Police Department has adopted policies and practices which utilize the Critical Decision Making Model to ensure that all actions are proportionate, lawful, accountable, necessary, and ethical. Your Police Department has mandated annual in-service training on use of force critical decision-making because the essential knowledge and skills are considered “perishable,” therefore rendering training on an annual basis a necessity.

The final report issued by the Ad Hoc Commission included recommendations made by its Independent Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee. These recommendations, the subject of current deliberation by the Public Safety Committee of the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors, propose the creation of a Police Auditor position and establishment of a Civilian Review Panel. The Police Department welcomes immediate implementation of both as they maximize accountability through transparency, and will lead to higher levels of public trust and confidence in the Police Department.

The Police Department is committed to enhancing its transparency at all levels and we have established policies and procedures in coordination with the Board of Supervisors to achieve maximum communication with the communities we serve. Throughout the remainder of 2016 and into 2017 we will continue to reengineer our profession in many operational and administrative areas to achieve effective change while increasing community engagement.

In 2014 the Police Department began a self-assessment process to align its policies and procedures to comply with 484 national standards established by the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies (CALEA). The required on-site assessment was conducted by assessors from outside Virginia in early 2016, and CALEA accredited status was awarded on July 30, 2016.

The Police Department, along with the Community Services Board, other public safety agencies, and mental health advocates partnered to implement the Diversion First program which provides a viable jail diversion alternative for those in mental health crisis. Our police officers receive Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) training to prepare them to recognize when persons are experiencing a mental health crisis and how best to de-escalate such initial encounters. Our CIT-trained officers now have the Merrifield Crisis Response Center, as well as two Mobile Crisis Units, enabling them to offer persons in crisis the mental health services they may require.

Welcome to Fairfax County and we encourage you to engage with your Police Department as we all continue to make our County a great place to live, work, play, and grow old. To learn more about the Fairfax County Police Department, please visit