The following is re-printed from Reston Patch with permission of the author.
Finally the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors has taken the first
step toward reining in the Fairfax County Police Department, a heavily
armed force which in matters of life and death has been accountable to
no one but themselves. In the 75 years since the Board created its
Police Department, not one officer has been charged with wrongdoing in
killing an unarmed civilian.
But, there have been many killings
of unarmed civilians, including ones under questionable circumstances—a
half dozen of the latter in the last 10 years alone. (To see a rare, and
creative, report on such a killing, google “Killing of Salvatore
Culosi—Report to the Community by [then] Police Chief David Rohrer”.)
it has taken the public uproar over the shooting death of unarmed John
Geer by an officer in front of several witnesses (including civilians
this time) and seventeen months of FCPD stonewalling the public, the
Commonwealth Attorney, and the Department of Justice to sufficiently
embarrass Chairman Sharon Bulova and nine District Supervisors into
their first tentative action.
Before you conclude that Mr. Geer
did not die in vain, however, we should watch closely and verify that
the historically non-supervising Supervisors in fact effect genuine
reform, ending the impunity FC Police have so long enjoyed. Thus far,
the Board’s action consists only of an announcement of INTENT to form an
Ad Hoc Commission to study FCPD operations as manifest in the Geer
Chairman Bulova and the Supervisors have yet to reveal the
scope of work for the consultant charged with forming and, presumably,
heading the Ad Hoc Commission.
After all, it is this body that
ultimately will recommend the measures needed to bring transparency and
accountability to the FCPD. It would help if Chairman Bulova introduced
her consultant to the community, revealed the content of his contract
and the Board’s charge to the Commission, and revealed how its members
are selected and indeed who they are.
The Supervisors need to
understand that their dereliction of police oversight duty has eroded
public confidence to the point where it rivals that accorded to the U.S.
Congress. The Ad Hoc Commission is potentially key to restoring some of
the lost trust.
The Commission should shape not only critically
needed reform of the FCPD, but also the civilian oversight function of
the Board itself, and indeed the community, which in the future must
have an independent oversight role investigating complaints involving
police use of force, especially lethal force.
Let’s see if the
Supervisors are up to the job, notably in an election year when they
often look to the cops for union endorsements, campaign cash, and