Commentary: Goal - Involving Public in Police Use of Force Review

Commentary: Goal - Involving Public in Police Use of Force Review

With the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors May 10 Public Safety Committee meeting just a few days away, it is important to remember what has been discussed so far, what is on the agenda for May 10, and what will be done in the future. As the Chair of the Committee, my goal will be to include the public as much as possible in what is very much a community process.

The Public Safety Committee met on Feb. 9 to begin the review of the recommendations of the Ad Hoc Police Practices Review Commission -- particularly police use of force practices. Chief Roessler of the Fairfax County Police Department (FCPD) noted that the Department participates in use of force review through the Police Executive Research Forum (PERF) and is pursuing national accreditation through the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies (CALEA).

Reforming police practices through the Public Safety Committee has been more than mere discussion; we have directly revised the Criminal Justice Academy training to focus on the sanctity of life and have altered the methods of recruit training, crisis intervention team (CIT) training, and training for supervisors. We have certified 20 lead trainers on de-escalation and critical decision-making models, and have recruited a civilian director of the Public Affairs Bureau. All of these reforms are actions taken to improve both FCPD’s response to crime and public safety practices as a whole.

At the May 10 committee meeting, we will continue working through the recommendations from the Ad Hoc Commission. We will focus on national trends in police use of force and the recommendations made to Fairfax County from PERF. We will also talk about the recommendations of the Ad Hoc Commission Use of Force Subcommittee, and will hear from the Chief, who will present the current and proposed revisions to the use of force policy.

The Committee will also hear about the recommendations of the Communications Subcommittee from former Chief Public Information Officer Merni Fitzgerald. Commonwealth’s Attorney Morrogh will present prosecutor’s views on the release of information during use of force investigations, and Detective Sean Corcoran, speaking on behalf of the Fairfax Coalition of Police Local 5000, will share the views of officers on the release of names and information following a police incident. A representative from PERF will attend to discuss national trends in communications regarding use of force events. At the following meeting in July, we will be looking at the recommendations of the Oversight Committee, which includes a civilian oversight board.

Reforming our county’s police practices has and will continue to be an open and transparent process. The Police Practices Review Commission, as well as the Public Safety Committee, will be performing significant work in the months ahead as we work with the FCPD, community members, and other, instrumental partners to ensure we have a police force in Fairfax County that is second to none.