Are Supervisors Leaving Police Reform Efforts to Languish?

Are Supervisors Leaving Police Reform Efforts to Languish?

Stymied by FCPD, ‘We need the board to act.”

Adrian Steel speaks before the Board of Supervisors on May 21, 2024. His police service credentials include ten years of police reform work.

Adrian Steel speaks before the Board of Supervisors on May 21, 2024. His police service credentials include ten years of police reform work.

During the public comment portion of the Tuesday, May 21, Board of Supervisors meeting, Diane Burkley Alejandro spoke on behalf of ACLU People Power Fairfax. She is also a member of the Fairfax County Police Reform Matrix Working Group. Adrian Steel, Alejandro's colleague on the Working Group, also commented. Each had three minutes.

Alejandro said that the Board of Supervisors has yet to address 51 of the 52 police reform recommendations in the Matrix Working Group’s 2023 45-page report, Community Recommendations for More Equitable Policing in Fairfax County: A Proposed Action Plan (Action Plan 2023), authored by the Police Reform Matrix Working Group.

She said that the Fairfax County Police Department (FCPD) had only “partially adopted about 25 percent of the report’s recommendations. She questioned why it did not adopt policies for the use of force and data transparency. 

Diane Burkley Alejandro testifying May 21, 2024. 


Alejandro said the only adopted recommendation was to establish a permanent community advisory group on equity, the One Fairfax Roundtable, Chairman Jeff McKay’s brainchild.

"We do not need serial advisory committees rehashing these concerns. We need the board to act,” said Alejandro.

Alejandro directed the Board's attention to a recent report, the 13-page Recommendation to the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors: Next Steps on Police Reform in Fairfax County, May 12, 2024," which she had conveyed to them the same day, May 12.

"Last week, we [members of the Matrix Working Group] gave you a list of the six most pressing recommendations," Alejandro said to the Board. "First, we asked for more community involvement in police policy, not less. 

"Chief Davis is ending it instead," Alejandro said. She opined that Davis believes the Roundtable can achieve the same results as co-production with community members who had expertise in police reform, and questioned the learning curve members of the Roundtable would face.

“Do you really want the Roundtable to become an expert in best practices on things like foot pursuits and probable cause? You won’t find that listed in its charter,” she said.

Alejandro addressed four assessment measures used by the Fairfax County Police Department. "If this is the country’s safest jurisdiction (of its size), then police stops and arrests should also be safer, and performance measures can tell us that," she said.

She said that the University of Texas at San Antonio discovered a discrepancy in FCPD's use of force from 2018 onward. This prompted her to pose a rhetorical question to the Board: What steps had been taken to try to reduce the use of force? Alejandro's findings suggested that FCPD should correct its flawed methodology and refrain from “lumping Latino and white people together.” Researchers worldwide have abandoned the practice. 

“It is up to the Board to implement these changes,” Alejandro said, concluding her three-minute allowed speaking time.

Adrian Steel said that the Ad Hoc Police Practices Review Commission's original intention regarding civilian oversight in 2015 was to structure it according to best practices of the National Association of Civilian Oversight of Law Enforcement. While they intended to revisit civilian oversight in three to five years, it did not happen in Fairfax County.

The Matrix Working Group suggested conducting a study comparing FCPD practices to established best practices, citing examples from other Virginia jurisdictions. “The study would take a year,” said Steel. “That's one of our first things, but we think that's important.”

Steel’s second item encompassed three immediate proposals on which the Matrix Working Group wanted the Board to take action. The first is proportionality in the use of force standards. "Everybody, including the chief, PERF (Police Executive Research Forum), the committee, and the (Independent Police) Auditor agrees that proportionately should be playing a bigger role," said Steel. “They haven’t done a thing about it.”

Steel addressed the absence of a revised foot pursuit policy, particularly in light of the lessons learned from the Tysons incident, in which an FCPD police officer shot and killed unarmed Timothy Johnson, a Black man, during an outdoor, night-time foot pursuit. FCPD officers suspected Johnson of shoplifting sunglasses.

“It's been 15 months; we have no foot pursuit policy,” Steel said. He added that FCPD drafted a foot policy but was unwilling to share it with them or anyone else. FCPD said they intend to submit it to the new One Fairfax Roundtable.

“It’s not really the time when we need our policy now,” said Steel, “so it doesn’t happen again.” Steel pointed out that the new foot pursuit policy would also protect the officers so they know what to do and not do.

Third, Steel discussed the pointing of a firearm. He said that Chief Davis announced in November that FCPD was changing the policy; pointing a firearm would be considered a reportable use of force. But since then, “we have seen nothing about what that policy might be," Steel said.

“We need all three of them; we've seen evidence in the police's activities that they will help make us a safer place,” Steel said.

Steel said it would be beneficial for FCPD to publish critical incident reports detailing events and concerns following investigations, such as the McLean fatal police shooting of Jasper Lynch in 2023. (Lynch armed himself with a bottle during a mental health crisis.)

Lynch’s parents raised questions, such as why the officer who shot and killed their son did not have his electronic control weapon (Taser) with him. “And the proportionality ... when the incident is over, what can we learn so we avoid those situations from happening again?" Steel said.


Alejandro is the lead advocate for ACLU People Power Fairfax and a member of the Fairfax County Police Reform Matrix Working Group (Matrix Working Group). Fairfax County Board Supervisor Rodney Lusk, chair of the Safety and Security Committee, charged the Matrix Working Group to transform the Fairfax County Police Reform Matrix, a "compendium of (300+) community-based ideas, offered in a range of formats... into an action plan."

Alejandro was also key in the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors adopting a trust policy in 2021 to prohibit voluntary cooperation with Immigration and Customs Enforcement. The policy forbids county employees, including police and schools, from asking about or disclosing a person’s immigration status unless required by law, a judicial warrant or court order. 

Steel was the chairman of the inaugural Police Civilian Review Panel.  He has 10 years of police reform work. He served as one of 42 diverse members on the Chairman's Task Force on Equity and Opportunity, convened by Jeff McKay, chairman of the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors. The task force provided 20 recommendations to the Board on equity issues, leveraging the insights, experiences, professional networks, and industry and institutional understanding within the community to better understand the county’s drivers of inequity to accelerate the county’s progress towards becoming One Fairfax.

Supervisor Sharon Bulova and the Board of Supervisors established the Ad Hoc Police Practices Review Commission in March 2015 in response to public frustration over the shooting death of John Geer by FCPD officer Adam Torres. Steel served on this commission. The Ad Hoc Police Practices Review Commission evaluated over two hundred recommendations conveyed to the Board of Supervisors in October 2015. Geer, an unarmed Springfield man, was standing in his doorway talking with FCPD police following an alleged domestic dispute when Torres shot and killed him. On July 31, 2015, FCPD fired Torres for violating the department's policies and procedures on the use of force. In 2015, Torres was indicted and charged with second-degree murder. He was sentenced in 2016 to one year of imprisonment, with time served. Torres' release occurred five days after his conviction.

On May 17, a spokesperson for Chairman McKay responded to a request for comment on his reaction to the report, Next Steps 2024, emailed to him on May 12, saying in an email, “Chairman McKay asked that I respond to let you know we’ve received their report but have not had the opportunity to review it in full yet. We appreciate their continued advocacy and will respond once we are able to review their latest.”

The police did not make Chief Davis or other FCPD staff available for an interview, responding instead with a statement. "The FCPD remains proud of our enormous progress over the last several years. As policing continues to evolve and as the FCPD serves as a best-practice police organization, we look forward to collaborating with the newly formed One Fairfax Roundtable as its members work with us and other Fairfax County agencies.”