Community task force calls on Fairfax County Police Department to make policy changes
After a series of officer-involved shootings in Fairfax County, there’s an urgent cry for the local police department to make changes to its policies.
Back in February, Timothy Johnson was unarmed when he was gunned down by police after allegedly stealing a pair of designer sunglasses from Nordstrom at Tysons Corner.
A task force is calling on the Fairfax County Police Department to do better and be better. The community wants to make it clear that the suggested recommendations do not mean there’s a lack of confidence in the Fairfax County Police Department. However, it does indicate there are some concerning issues that need to be addressed.
Pastor Vernon Walton is a member of the police reform Matrix Working Group.
He says after receiving 300 suggestions from citizens about how the agency can improve a full report was created and divided into eight categories.
"People are looking for accountability," Pastor Walton told FOX 5.
Some of the recommendations include reevaluating practices such as use-of-force policies and how to identify criminal behavior versus a mental health crisis. In addition, people want more transparency when it comes to collecting and reporting data involving interactions with officers.
Residents also want the civilian review panel to have more authority and be able to independently investigate and hold law enforcement accountable.
"There is a concern about policing and this is not a matter of being anti-police," Pastor Walton said.
A three-year investigation into the Fairfax County Police Department released in 2021 by the University of Texas at San Antonio discovered Black people are two times more likely to experience high levels of force than white people.
It also uncovered that Black people who got arrested in Fairfax County were 1.2x more likely than white people to have force used against them.
"It’s disheartening," Pastor Walton said. "It’s an unfortunate reality, but it’s a reality that should inform our conversation. That should push us to want to address the issue."
In a statement to FOX 5, Fairfax County Police Chief Kevin Davis mentioned he is proud of the department’s progress and many improvements over the last several years.
""The FCPD remains proud of our progress and many improvements over the last several years. The list is a long one. Our County government structure includes an Independent Police Auditor, an Executive Director of the Police Civilian Review Panel and a Police Civilian Review Panel (PCRP). Since the inception of the PRCP six years ago, the panel has disagreed with the FCPD on one singular occasion," the statement reads. "The decision to alter or expand the powers of the PCRP is under the purview of the Board of Supervisors. In the meantime, we remain committed to creating and adopting proven industry practices that make Fairfax County safer and maintain our exceptional relationship with our community."
Pastor Walton says he thinks the department handles a majority of situations properly, however, there are always some unique circumstances.
"I think what’s most important is every officer has to have clear policies how to handle situations," he said.
Police Chief Kevin Davis will now review the suggestions before providing his thoughts to the board of supervisors.