By Dana Hedgpeth September 14 at 9:20 AM
A Fairfax County police officer pleaded no contest in an accident with a minivan that occurred as he was speeding in a cruiser without emergency equipment on.
Officials said the incident involving Officer Pshko Siteki, who has been on the force for two years, happened Feb. 18. Siteki was heading to a call for a disorderly conduct incident when his cruiser struck a minivan near Leesburg Pike and Patrick Henry Drive in the Seven Corners area.
On Thursday, Siteki made the no-contest plea in Fairfax County District Court and was fined $250 by a judge.
Siteki did not have the emergency equipment on his cruiser in use during the incident although he was driving 68 miles per hour in an area where the speed limit is 40 miles per hour, police said. The driver of the minivan, a 53-year-old man, and the officer were taken to a hospital. The minivan driver had extensive injuries, officials said.
Siteki had been served a summons for a misdemeanor of reckless driving.
There was an in-car video system in the officer’s cruiser but because of the damage from the crash police were unable to retrieve it.
In a statement when the incident happened, Fairfax County Police Chief Edwin C. Roessler Jr. said, “We take the safety of our officers and members of this community very seriously.”
Officials said they have placed Siteki on “restricted duty without police powers, pending the outcome of the ongoing administrative investigation.” Siteki had been on administrative leave following the crash.
Justin Jouvenal, The Washington Post
Glen Sylvester avoids elevators and the back seats of cars to fend off his claustrophobia, but as the police officers walked him toward the small jail cell at Baltimore-Washington International Airport in May 2016, he braced for the panic to grip his body.
Sylvester, 54, was already bewildered. He had no idea why he had been placed under arrest. Minutes earlier, the Maryland man had been squashed into an economy seat on a flight idling on the tarmac when two officers boarded.
Suddenly, he was handcuffed and being pushed through the airport in a wheelchair. The insurance agent, Army veteran and youth basketball coach said he kept blurting out: "You have the wrong person!"
Then he was facing the cell. As the door closed, Sylvester said he felt like a drowning man. His chest seized, and it seemed as though he was unable to get a breath no matter how hard he tried. He pressed his face between the bars, trying to gulp fresh air. A single thought went through his mind: What did I do?
The answer, according to a lawsuit Sylvester recently filed in Fairfax County, was nothing. The District Heights resident claims he was mistakenly arrested for a pair of thefts from a Fairfax City, Virginia, grocery store the year before.
The charges were eventually dropped, but Sylvester said the 12 days he endured in various jails were a nightmare for someone with claustrophobia. He said he lost 18 pounds while behind bars, and his wife said he still sleepwalks, checking the bedroom door for air as if he is still in a cell.
"It's baffling to this day. Why me?" Sylvester asks. "How did you pick me out of billions of people? I really don't understand that. It makes me emotional, to be honest."
Sylvester and his lawyer say they still don't know how police homed in on him as a suspect. The Fairfax County officer named as defendant in the lawsuit, Brian Geschke, did not respond to requests for comment, and a police spokeswoman declined to comment on the case, citing the pending litigation.
A spokesman for Fairfax County said Geschke believes the investigation was conducted properly.
"Officer Geschke denies the allegations in the complaint and will vigorously defend the case," the statement read.
False arrest is a rare but real problem that can have searing consequences, from job loss to the destruction of a reputation. Unlike the more high-profile issue of wrongful convictions, no one tracks exactly how many cases of false arrest occur across the country.
But each year, dozens file lawsuits claiming that eyewitness error, paperwork mix-ups, sloppy police work or even identity theft have led police to haul them to jail for crimes they didn't commit or for offenses that never happened. Most are eventually released after the error is discovered.
Sylvester's trouble began May 13, 2016, when he was traveling home from attending the funeral of an uncle in Grenada, a country in the Caribbean. After landing at BWI, the plane was held on the tarmac, and the officers removed Sylvester from the flight.
"It was incredibly embarrassing in the world that we are living in," Sylvester said. "It's like I'm a terrorist."
Sylvester said he spent three hours in the cell at BWI before he was removed to go before a magistrate. His panic attack finally lifted as he went outside. He recalls sucking in air as the tightness in his chest eased.
The respite was short-lived.
"You have four felony charges in the state of Virginia, and you are considered a fugitive for leaving the country," Sylvester recalled the magistrate telling him as she explained why he wouldn't get bail.
Sylvester said he was stunned - he hardly ever went to Virginia and had never been to the store he was accused of robbing.
As Sylvester would later learn, two men walked through the Fairfax City-area Wegmans about 6 p.m. Nov. 5 and Nov. 12, 2015, piling into their carts items including Veuve Clicquot champagne, moscato wine and roses. Then they simply walked out the door and made off with the goods.
Surveillance cameras captured the thefts, showing that they appeared to be carried out by middle-aged black men.
The losses totaled more than $1,250, meaning Sylvester was charged with felony grand larceny. Each of the four counts carried a prison sentence of up to 20 years if Sylvester were eventually convicted.
Sylvester claims he was coaching basketball at Kelly Miller Middle School in the District of Columbia at the times of the crimes. His story was bolstered by three witnesses interviewed by The Washington Post. His wife, an assistant coach and a parent of a player said they recalled seeing him at the school about 6 p.m. or a short time before and after on the days in question.
After the hearing before the magistrate, Sylvester was taken to a detention center in the Annapolis, Maryland, area to await extradition to Virginia.
His first stop was a large holding cell where he was placed with others under arrest. Sylvester said he was scared as the people discussed drug use and assaults they had carried out. He shrank into a corner, doing breathing exercises to try to keep his claustrophobia at bay.
Sylvester's life revolves around basketball. He has spent 13 years as the head basketball coach at Kelly Miller Middle and at the Seed School, also in D.C. He is also the president of the Bulls, a basketball and mentoring program for at-risk boys that has helped more than 20 participants get into college and earn degrees. Sylvester said four have landed in the NBA.
His own record is not without a blemish. While in college in North Carolina in the 1980s, Sylvester said, he did community service for stealing two Cabbage Patch dolls from a store. A check by The Post turned up no other similar offenses in the intervening years.
At the detention center, Sylvester was eventually allowed to call his best friend, who was supposed to meet him at the airport. Derrick Wilson alerted Sylvester's wife.
"It was unbelievable," Wilson said. "He couldn't believe he was in jail over something he didn't know about."
He was then issued a jail jumpsuit and transferred to his own cell at the detention center. He said he kept expecting authorities to realize their error and release him, but now it was sinking in he would be in the jail for a while.
Sylvester said he remembers the exact dimensions of his cell - 7 by 11 feet - because he paced it obsessively.
He pulled his mattress onto the floor next to a dirty toilet so he could sleep with his head on the cell door. He said doing so allowed him to feel the air coming through the food slot, which helped his claustrophobia.
"You talk about broken," Sylvester said. "You're broken at this point."
Eleven more days would drag by in the detention center. Sylvester missed his wedding anniversary on May 17. Finally, on May 25, Virginia authorities arrived to transfer Sylvester to Fairfax County, where he was granted bail.
Sylvester walked outside and plopped down on a curb.
"I remember just crying like crazy," he said.
In September 2016, a Fairfax County prosecutor decided to drop the charges against Sylvester after receiving the results of an analysis that showed Sylvester's cellphone accessing cell towers in the District of Columbia and Maryland at the time of the crimes, according to emails obtained by The Post.
The Wegmans loss-prevention officer, who originally reported the thefts to police, also cast doubt on whether police had arrested the right person after seeing him in court for a preliminary hearing.
"My impression was that he may not be the same person I saw in the videos of these incidents," she wrote in a sworn affidavit provided to Sylvester's lawyer.
Sylvester is claiming in the lawsuit that Geschke was grossly negligent for not obtaining the cellphone records and interviewing him before seeking arrest warrants against him. The county has argued in its response that Geschke's actions do not rise to the level of gross negligence and that the case should be dismissed. The response does not address the facts asserted by Sylvester.
The arrest has left Sylvester and his family shaken.
"It's so easy to get arrested and lost in the system," said his wife, Stacey Sylvester. "I don't want anyone else to have this terrifying feeling again. It hurts my heart. It does make me mistrust the justice system."
Idiots! They could have killed someone, they should have broken off the chase…this is just a cheap excuse to justify the use of Nazi license-plate reader (Which they can use on you too)
Chase for fugitive stretches 38 miles of I-66 through Fairfax, Prince William, Fauquier
Aug 22, 2017
A suspect in an attempted homicide is in custody after a high-speed chase on Interstate 66 through Fairfax, Prince William and Fauquier counties.
Robert David Sheets, of Quarryville, Pennsylvania, is accused of shooting a man Aug. 13 and then shooting and stabbing the victim the next day when he realized the man was still alive. The victim survived both attempts on his life.
Sheets is charged with two counts of attempted homicide in Pennsylvania, as well as charges related to the chase Sunday across Northern Virginia, according to a news release from Fairfax County police.
The chase began with a license-plate reader alerting officers that Sheets was connected to a 2007 Ford Edge heading west on I-66 Sunday morning. Fairfax police cruisers pulled in behind Sheets near the Fairfax County Parkway and attempted a traffic stop.
Sheets sped away, according to police, accelerating to more than 100 miles per hour down I-66. About 38 miles later, in Fauquier, Fairfax police were able to stop the SUV in the area of Route 17 and Route 50.
Concerns about Fairfax County police can be shared on these websites
By Michelle Basch | @MBaschWTOP
August 19, 2017 12:55 am
WASHINGTON — Two new websites make it easy to share a concern or complaint you might have about the Fairfax County Police Department.
The county has a new civilian review panel made up of nine residents, as well as an independent police auditor. Both can review completed police investigations.
Fairfax Co. police citizen complaint panel now ready to act
FAIRFAX COUNTY, VA NEWS
Ex-Fairfax Co. officer sentenced in shooting death to be released next week
FAIRFAX COUNTY, VA NEWS
The civilian review panel can look into cases involving accusations of officer misconduct or abuse of authority. The auditor can take a second look at in-custody death and police use-of-force investigations.
At new websites the county has set up for each, you can fill out complaint forms and email them. You can also opt to print out the forms and submit them in person or through the mail.
The independent police auditor and civilian review panel were established following the death of John Geer, who was shot and killed in the doorway of his Springfield home in 2013. County police Officer Adam Torres pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter in connection with the death.
By Antonio Olivo August 17 at 4:05 PM
The two Fairfax County civilian bodies created to monitor police department investigations are ready to begin reviewing allegations of improper use of force and other misconduct, county officials announced Thursday.
The Independent Police Auditor and a nine-member Civilian Review Panel were appointed in response to questions about how the county handled an investigation into the 2013 shooting of an unarmed man outside his home in Springfield.
The auditor will review cases in which someone is shot by a police officer, dies while in custody or is injured after an officer uses force.
The Civilian Review Panel will review investigations into alleged harassment by police, reckless endangerment and other cases of misconduct.
Complaints can be made by telephoning the independent auditor at 703-324-3459 or filling out a form at the Fairfax County website.
Virginia Supreme Court takes written arguments from civil rights groups against the use of license plate cameras.
Civil rights groups made their case to the Virginia Supreme Court, urging the justices last week to find that the police use of automated license plate readers (ALPR, also known as ANPR) violates state privacy laws. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), Electronic Freedom Foundation (EFF) and Rutherford Institute each filed petitions in their case against the Fairfax County Police Department that claimed the use of cameras to gather intelligence on motorists not suspected of any crime violated Virginia's Government Data Collection and Dissemination Practices Act.
Last year, a Fairfax County judge rejected the argument (view ruling), even though a 2013 state attorney general opinion agreed with the ACLU and EFF (view opinion). The groups insist that the law seeks to protect private information about drivers, and that the lower court judge was construing the term 'personal information' too narrowly.
"ALPR data clearly fits within the types of personal data of concern to the General Assembly because it allows the government to monitor patterns of movements associated with identified vehicles, and to easily link that data to 'personal activities' of specific Virginia residents using data readily available through intercommunicating databases," EFF attorney Matthew J. Erausquin wrote. "In the past few years, as it has become clear how easy it is to aggregate seemingly innocuous and isolated pieces of data from disparate sources to create a full and revealing picture of an individual, agencies and organizations that work on privacy issues have broadened their definition of personally identifying information."
The group cited the Federal Trade Commission's updated definition of personally identifiable information to include cases where the information can be "reasonably linked" to a particular person using various identifiers. For its part, the ACLU blasted the lower-court judge for dismissing the attorney general's opinion in a footnote.
"Nothing in the [judge's] letter opinion... explain or support a conclusion that the instant case 'differs from the situation reviewed by the attorney general,'" ACLU attorney Edward S. Rosenthal wrote. "Since no trial was held and no admissions of fact were made by [our client] to support such a conclusion, it is difficult to ascertain what the trial court based this remark upon."
Virginia law requires courts to give "due consideration" to the points made in a formal ruling of the attorney general.
"We're on the losing end of a technological revolution that has already taken hostage our computers, our phones, our finances, our entertainment, our shopping, our appliances, and now, it's focused its sights on our cars," Rutherford Institute president John W. Whitehead said in a statement. "By subjecting Americans to surveillance without their knowledge or compliance and then storing the data for later use, the government has erected the ultimate suspect society. In such an environment, there is no such thing as innocent until proven guilty."
County police officer has been charged with reckless driving after he hit a car, seriously injuring a man, while speeding 68 mph without his cruiser's lights or sirens on.
Officer Pshko Siteki was responding to a disorderly conduct call about 10:30 a.m. Feb. 18 when he crashed into a minivan turning from Leesburg Pike to Patrick Henry Drive in Falls Church, police said.
Siteki, who has been with the department for two years, was speeding 68 mph in a 40-mph zone but did not have his emergency equipment on, according to police.
Both he and the 53-year-old man driving the minivan were taken to a hospital. The civilian received extensive injuries and, five months later, is still recovering.
Siteki was served a summons on Tuesday and placed on paid leave pending a court appearance, Police Chief Edwin Roessler announced Tuesday.
"We take the safety of our officers and members of this community very seriously," Roessler said in a statement. "That is why an Internal Affairs investigation was quickly launched to determine the circumstances surrounding this incident."
The officer's police cruiser had a video system, but the video was destroyed in the crash.
Siteki is due in court in September.
By Max Smith
WASHINGTON — Fairfax County moved forward Tuesday with a new police civilian review panel that aims to ensure citizen complaints about officers are properly investigated.
The county’s board of supervisors approved bylaws for the nine-member panel that was appointed in February, and the panel can now begin full operations.
The bylaws limit the group to reviewing completed internal affairs investigations, and bar the group from hearing any testimony about an incident from additional witnesses beyond those interviewed by police, even during public meetings.
“The problem with that was that if witnesses could present their version of events, but then the officers involved could not, that that would be unfair to the officers,” Supervisor John Cook said.
A person filing a complaint could explain the basis of the complaint to the review panel, and any other witness would be able to tell the review panel why they believe they should be interviewed by police.
“Investigations would be conducted by the police department because they are the ones trained in doing the investigation, and those investigations would be reviewed by the panel,” Cook said.
The panel will have 90 days from the completion of an internal police investigation to hold a public meeting and issue its own final review of the investigation.
“The bottom line is that this panel does not do an investigation. This panel makes sure that an investigation has been accomplished fairly,” Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Chairman Sharon Bulova said.
The panel is responsible for reviewing public complaints about issues like abuse of authority or officer misconduct that either should be or have been investigated by the police department.
A separate, full-time independent auditor now handles investigations into police shootings and other use of force. Both were established based on recommendations from the Ad Hoc Police Practices Review Commission that was created to identify ways to increase accountability following an outcry over the 2013 shooting death of John Geer in Springfield and the lengthy legal fight over the release of information about the case.
Eventually, the officer who shot Geer pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter.
The bylaws for the panel are below. Note: supervisors made some additional minor editorial changes that are not reflected
A high speed chase in overcrowded Fairfax County, basically they executed this guy for stealing a car
Police pursuit of stolen car ends in crash injuring 3 men in Fairfax County
Friday, June 23rd 2017
FAIRFAX COUNTY, Va. (ABC7) — Three men were injured after a police pursuit of a stolen car resulted in a crash early Friday morning in Fairfax County, Virginia, according to police.
All three men were taken to an area hospital where one of them is in critical condition and the other two are in stable condition.
Police say the chase began shortly before 10 p.m. Thursday.
The accident occurred on northbound Richmond Highway between Belford Drive and Fordson Road.
An investigation into the incident is underway, police say.
By John Lovaas, Reston Impact Producer/Host
For some time I’ve thought our public school teachers in Fairfax County are undervalued and underpaid. This view is based on data I’ve seen in the last couple of years comparing teacher pay in public school systems in the Metro Washington suburbs. That data reflects that our Fairfax County teachers’ pay has steadily declined in recent years relative to that of their counterparts in other jurisdictions.
When I happened to glance recently at information on pay elsewhere in Fairfax County government, I found that hundreds of County employees are not suffering as our teachers are. In fact, the others are well paid by comparison.
Fairfax County firefighters and uniformed public safety (police and Sheriff’s deputies) personnel are doing much better than I had imagined. In many cases they are making nearly double what Fairfax County pays classroom teachers. At present, there are about 3,200 people serving as firefighters, police officers and sheriff’s deputies. Half of them made over $100,000 per year in 2016 when you include overtime, premium pay and the stipends they routinely receive.
Firefighters on average make the most, and arguably have less stressful work than cops or deputy sheriffs. Sixty-two percent of firefighters make over $100,000 per year, while 43 percent of police officers make $100,000 or more, and 35 percent of the Sheriff’s deputies make that much.
Very few teachers earn $100,000 or more, likely less than 5 percent.
Starting salaries for teachers, police officers, and firefighters are similar — in the low- to mid-$50,000 range. Sheriff’s deputies start at about $10,000 less.
There the similarities end. Among the ranks of the uniformed services, overtime at premium rates is routine and a major chunk of the total paycheck. Also, they take home several other forms of premium rate pay, e.g., callback, emergency, shift, and holiday pay. And there are several additional stipends. While teachers perform duties that parallel some of these premium pay categories, they rarely receive anything beyond their base salary.
This is not to say that uniformed police officers and sheriff’s deputies, or even firefighters, are overpaid. These are the folks who help keep us safe and, especially in the case of police officers, often put their lives in jeopardy doing so. It is hard indeed to over-value these services.
But, why is it that those to whom we entrust the education of our children and our country’s future are valued so much less by the Fairfax County School Board and Board of Supervisors? Unlike police, firefighters and deputy sheriffs, many of whom make over $100,000 per year, our teachers rarely can afford to even live in the communities where they teach because of their much lower incomes. This I just do not understand.
P.S. There are another 800-plus Fairfax County employees also making over $100,000 per year. They are the heads of departments, offices, and the many County semi-autonomous organizations — e.g. the Park Authority, Economic Development Authority, Housing Authority, etc. — as well as other well-paid denizens of the huge Fairfax County Government Center.
Board cites progress on Police Practices improvements, but some citizens demand more.
By Andrea Worker
George Becerra of Burke, who attends a number of public meetings concerning community issues, wants to know what county officials will do to change their outreach approach and increase attendance at important meetings and forums. “They can all get out the word at campaign time.”
John Lovaas admitted that he was a bit of a skeptic. Speaking at the May 22 meeting to update Fairfax County residents on the Ad Hoc Police Practices Review Commission’s recommendations, the Restonian acknowledged that he hadn’t been expecting all that much to come from the 32-member commission established by Board of Supervisors Chairman Sharon Bulova — in spite of the fact that Lovaas had actually been chosen as an alternate representative.
“But I am more and more impressed by what’s coming out of the implementation stage,” said Lovaas.
Lovaas may now be cautiously optimistic, but the meeting that highlighted progress, also subjected its panelists to criticism, shouts, protest signs, and a dose of expressed disbelief from many in the small, but vocal audience.
To provide the update and take questions from the audience were Bulova; Supervisor John Cook (R-Braddock); Police Chief Edwin Roessler, Jr.; Richard Schott, independent police auditor; Adrian Steel, Ad Hoc Commission vice chair; Shirley Ginwright, Communities of Trust chair; and David Rohrer, deputy county executive for public safety.
Bulova opened the session at the Government Center by announcing that the board had already approved and implemented or put in motion 172 of the 202 recommendations that the commission presented in its final report on Oct. 20, 2016. “I am proud … that in the first year 88 percent of the recommendations have been approved,” said Bulova, stressing that the board had taken the commission’s findings seriously, and worked in collaboration with the Sheriff’s Office, as well, to ensure the best possible results.
TWO NEW FORMS of independent oversight for the Fairfax County Police Department (FCPD) were established because of the Ad Hoc Commission. The supervisors recently named nine members — chosen from more than 140 applicants — to the Civilian Review Panel, to be chaired by Steel. In addition to the Review Panel, Schott has been named as the independent police auditor, to report directly to the Board of Supervisors.
The Civilian Panel will have the authority to review completed FCPD internal administrative investigations regarding civilian complaints against an officer. They may hold meetings to inform the public on how investigations were conducted. They may review complaints of harassment or discrimination, reckless endangerment of a detainee, or serious violations of Fairfax County or police procedures, and misuse of authority, as part of their duties.
The independent police auditor will handle the cases of police use-of-force that result in serious injury or death.
The Ad Hoc Commission, made up of private citizens and members of the law enforcement, legal, and academic communities, as well as members of the media and public relations arena, divided their review responsibilities into five categories: Use-of-force, independent oversight, mental health and crisis intervention training (CIT), communications, and diversity and recruiting.
Cook chairs the board’s Public Safety Committee, and had the task of bringing the recommendations to the committee and seeing that they were “worked through, not just rubber stamped one way or the other.”
The majority of the recommendations — 34 percent — came from the use-of-force sub-committee. Even though review of police practices had been on-going before, the impetus for the establishment of the Ad Hoc Commission itself came after the 2013 fatal shooting of John Geer of Springfield, by then Fairfax County Patrolman Adam Torres, while Geer stood unarmed in his own doorway.
After Geer’s death, with no information being made available to the public, several community groups formed and petitioned for reforms and more accountability from county law enforcement agencies. In early 2015 protests demanding “Justice for John Geer” were held outside police headquarters and the county government center.
The public did not learn the name of the officer involved in the shooting, or many of the relevant details until 17 months after the incident, when the information was released by a court order. The demand for more transparency did not fade away. In March of 2015, Bulova received the board’s support to create the Ad Hoc Commission with the mission to “review FCPD policies and practices related to critical incidents, use-of-force training policies, threat assessments, as well as those within the Internal Affairs Division.”
While insisting that avoiding any loss of life during police-public interaction had always been the guiding standard, at the meeting Cook said that one result of the commission’s efforts was a re-commitment to the “Sanctity of Life” philosophy. Cook referenced revisions made to FCPD policies. Last updated in 2013, revised General Order 540 on the subject of the use-of-force by county law enforcement personnel took effect on March 31 of this year. The order will be reviewed again in January of 2019, to determine its effectiveness and make any additional revisions if necessary.
Roessler also made mention of the revised policies, explaining that a number of policies had been consolidated into “one concise document” to clarify the appropriate actions to be taken while carrying out their duties, and the proper reporting required after the use of force by county police officers.
Roessler also praised the establishment of the Diversion First program, which is designed to divert persons with mental health issues and intellectual or developmental disabilities from detention to treatment wherever possible.
Since its launch in January of 2016, Diversion First has seen 375 individuals transferred for appropriate treatment options, instead of being arrested and detained for non-violent offenses.
To make Diversion First truly successful, Roessler said that law enforcement personnel had to be trained to handle citizens with these challenges. To that end, “de-escalation” training was begun for all FCPD officers last year.
WITH 52 ADVISEMENTS, the communications sub-committee of the commission came in second, targeting the transparency complaints and addressing the timeline gap between a use-of-force event and the public’s access to the details.
Roessler announced the establishment of a Public Affairs Bureau within the FCPD. The chief also mentioned pages on the FCPD’s website where information on use-of-force incidents are made available, including links to press conferences and briefings by Roessler and other officials.
Shirley Ginwright is the chair of the Fairfax County Communities of Trust Committee (COTC), a diverse citizen group “focused on strengthening and building positive relationships between public safety agencies and the communities they serve.” Since its inception in December, 2014, COTC has been looking for ways to connect law enforcement with the residents they serve. They have a particular interest in programs that focus on the county’s youth, and cutting off the “supply” of youngsters in the school-to-prison pipeline. Ginwright invited the audience to attend the COTC’s upcoming “Public Safety Day” on June 3 in Lorton.
Despite the numerous high notes in the one-year Ad Hoc Police Practices Review Commission’s report card, things got heated during the public commentary session.
Caycee Utley, lead organizer with Showing up for Racial Justice (SURJ) Northern Virginia, castigated all of the panelists over the death of 37-year-old Natasha McKenna, diagnosed with schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and depression from the age of 14. The 5’ 4,” 130-pound African-American McKenna, in custody at the Fairfax Adult Detention Center on an outstanding warrant for attacking a police officer, was tasered multiple times when sheriff’s deputies tried to put her in a wheeled restraint chair. At the time, McKenna was handcuffed behind her back, shackled around the legs with a bobble strap connecting the restraints, and had a spit mask placed over her face.
McKenna went into cardiac arrest shortly after being tasered. She was revived, but died five days later when it was determined that she had no brain activity, and life support was discontinued.
“Whose side are you on?” shouted several members of the SURJ group, waving their posters and pointing to an empty seat with a sign reading “Natasha McKenna” placed upon it.
“We don’t want to be on sides,” answered Cook.
The new police internal auditor, Schott, added, “This is what I have been hired to address.”
Both Roessler and Bulova tried to explain that the case of McKenna and some of the others being referenced by the SURJ supporters were not within their direct purview, citing that the Sheriff’s Office does not report to the Board of Supervisors.
“So nobody protects us from them?” Utley replied. “What pressures have you put on the sheriff?”
Attendee Jenifer Hitchcock “couldn’t understand how they cleared the deputies” involved in McKenna’s death.
AT ONE POINT during the public comment phase, Cook refused to respond to “people yelling out of turn” and Bulova threatened to adjourn the meeting.
After Utley said, “There can’t be any trust until there is justice,” Bulova invited her to “talk personally” after the meeting.
Several of the citizen speakers described the Civilian Review Panel and the police auditor as “toothless” — lacking in the power to do anything. “Smoke and mirrors,” said Mary Tracy of Alexandria. “The county has a long way to go on this. What about body cams? The Department of Justice was offering $1 million grants, but we made no efforts to get them.”
Several of the panelists explained that the auditor is prohibited under Virginia Law from investigating or conducting interviews. Citizens responded that they were willing to help the board get those changes made at the General Assembly, “just show us what to do. Support us.”
Kofi Annan, president of the Fairfax NAACP, took a more conciliatory approach in his remarks, calling the work done so far “a good start,” but he challenged the county to look into the disparity in the treatment of blacks versus whites within the legal system and in detention. Annan called for measures to track such information and make it easily available to the public.
George Becerra of Burke, a community advocate and familiar face at public meetings on diverse issues around the county, asked a different kind of question of the panelists. He glanced around the large auditorium, then, pointing to the small numbers in attendance, Becerra asked “How will you change your outreach efforts?”
In response, Ginwright with Communities of Trust referred again to her organization’s Public Safety Days campaigns. After the meeting, Becerra expressed his disappointment with the answer. He acknowledged that citizens were equally responsible for informing themselves and in becoming engaged, but said that the information is often hard to find and overwhelming. With so many media relations personnel and staffers, Becerra thinks just a bit more of the work should fall on the county’s side of the fence.
“During campaigns, politicians find a way to bombard your email with information and requests for donations and support.” Becerra wants to know why something similar can’t be done for these important issues and meetings. “There’s maybe 40 people here tonight. Forty people out of a population of 1.1 million. That’s a lot of voices going unheard.”
FCPD progress report met with controversy
By Angela Woolsey/Fairfax County Times
May 26, 2017
The community meeting organized by Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Chairman Sharon Bulova and Lake Braddock Supervisor John Cook to discuss recommendations for police reforms was intended to highlight the progress that the county has made since the Ad Hoc Police Practices Review Commission published its final report on Oct. 8, 2015.
However, the 90-minute meeting held Tuesday evening in the Fairfax County Government Center’s board auditorium turned out to be more indicative of the amount of work that the county still needs to do in bridging the trust gap between police and the people they serve.
Bulova and Cook, who chairs the board’s public safety committee, summarized what the county has done over the past two years to address the commission’s 202 suggested recommendations, which covered the use of force, independent oversight, mental health and crisis intervention team (CIT) training, recruitment diversity and vetting, and communications.
According to Bulova, the Board of Supervisors has reviewed all of the report’s recommendations and approved 178 of them – or 88 percent – within the first year.
“The Board of Supervisors, police department and other county agencies continue to move with deliberate speed to transform these recommendations into actionable policies,” Bulova said. “…I’m proud of the progress that we’ve made, and I’m especially proud that our Fairfax County Board of Supervisors took very, very seriously the fact that we needed to make changes.”
Bulova originally established the Ad Hoc Police Practices Review Commission on Mar. 3, 2015 in response to a public outcry over the circumstances surrounding the death of John Geer, a Springfield resident who was fatally shot by a Fairfax County police officer in 2013.
The roughly 34-member commission consisted of private citizens, academics, law enforcement representatives, members of the media and the legal community, and county staff.
Fairfax County Police Department (FCPD) Chief Edwin Roessler Jr. says that the department began its new de-escalation training in 2016.
In addition, the Fairfax County Criminal Justice Academy, which serves the FCPD, the Fairfax County Sheriff’s Office, the towns of Herndon and Vienna police departments, and the Fairfax County Fire Marshal’s Office, is already seeing some payoff from efforts to recruit candidates from more diverse communities, according to Roessler.
A 2015 Fairfax County demographics report found that 83 percent of the FCPD’s 1,369 sworn officers were Caucasian, compared to 7 percent African American and 5 percent Hispanic. Combined, African American and Hispanic residents made up almost a quarter of the county’s overall population at the time.
The FCPD also had only 184 female officers, according to that report, which is included in Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies (CALEA) 2016 assessment report for the FCPD.
Roessler recently revised his department’s use-of-force guidelines, also known as general order 540.
With an effective date of Mar. 31, 2017, the new order states that “force is to be used only to the extent it is objectively reasonable to defend oneself or another, to control an individual during an investigative or mental detention, or to lawfully effect an arrest.”
Bulova, Cook, and Roessler touted the county’s creation of a Diversion First program aimed at providing mental health treatment to those who need it instead of sending them to jail.
Launched on Jan. 1, 2016 in the Merrifield Crisis Response Center, the program received 375 individuals who would have otherwise been potentially arrested in its first year, according to Diversion First’s 2016 annual report.
Fairfax County has also implemented a restorative justice initiative where school students work with facilitators to resolve issues, rather than being punished through suspensions or expulsions. This approach is designed to address the school-to-prison pipeline that sees black students in particular disproportionately caught up in the criminal justice system at a young age.
The county’s restorative justice program has received more than 400 referrals in this year alone, says Communities of Trust Committee chair Shirley Ginwright, who leads a citizen group intended to strengthen relationships between public safety agencies and the local community.
Among the most prominent reforms to come out of the ad hoc commission’s report, however, are the establishment of an independent auditor and a civilian review panel for the county.
Appointed by the Board of Supervisors, FBI veteran Richard Schott took his position as Fairfax County’s first independent police auditor on Apr. 17.
The auditor’s office is responsible for reviewing internal investigations of FCPD officer-involved incidents that resulted in an individual being killed or seriously injured. It does not conduct independent investigations but can request further inquiries into internal investigations and must review all investigations into resident complaints regarding the use of force.
Approved by the Board of Supervisors on Dec. 6, the civilian police review panel is charged with reviewing resident complaints alleging harassment or discrimination, procedural violations, the endangerment of a person in custody, and other possible abuses of authority or misconduct by a Fairfax County police officer.
On Feb. 28, the board appointed nine people to serve on the panel for three-year terms.
“We want to bring our police and community closer together. Independent oversight will help us do that,” Cook said.
Despite county officials’ assertion that progress has been made, many community members said during the public comments portion of Tuesday night’s meeting that their concerns have not been adequately addressed, particularly those related to how law enforcement interacts with people of color and people with disabilities.
“I think this is a positive step in the right direction. We do have a long way to go,” NAACP Fairfax County president Kofi Annan said of the reforms, requesting that the county release data to see if there are racial disparities in who gets diverted from jail through Diversion First.
An administrative investigation and use-of-force report conducted by the FCPD’s internal affairs bureau in 2015 found that 539 community members had been involved in a use-of-force incident, 222 – or 41 percent – of them identified as black.
While 52 percent of use-of-force incidents involved white community members, community demographics indicate that 63 percent of Fairfax County’s populace is Caucasian, whereas only 8 percent of the population is black.
The report’s disciplinary action summary shows that one officer was disciplined for using force in 2015 with an oral reprimand.
Roessler says that he will “shortly” update information on his webpage about how officers are disciplined for the use of force.
Cook indicated that Schott has been tasked with further studying the police department’s use-of-force statistics, but Showing Up for Racial Justice (SURJ) Northern Virginia lead organizer Cayce Utley argues that there is already sufficient evidence of racial bias.
“When pressed about the obvious systemic racism, there’s deflection,” Utley said. “There’s ‘we don’t know if it’s really that bad.’ Everyone here is content with the status quo.”
SURJ is a nationwide organization dedicated to mobilizing white people to undermine “support for white supremacy and to help build a racially just society,” according to the Kentucky-based group’s website.
Though Roessler points to his department’s new media relations bureau as proof that transparency and communication has improved, Utley says that the county has provided few opportunities for the public to give input on the ad hoc commission recommendations and how they have been implemented.
The public safety committee meetings never allocate time for public comment, but the board received input on the recommendations from entities like police unions, according to Utley, who says she has attended all of the meetings since the commission report came out.
Utley says that this has undermined some of the reforms that the county has put in place.
The Board of Supervisors has declined to implement eight of the ad hoc commission’s recommendations, according to an interactive progress report available on the county website.
Among the recommendations that have not been implemented is an assurance that information is presented for all officer-involved shootings and lethal incidents within 72 hours, including an update on any discipline that was administered.
The board also chose not to adopt recommendations giving the civilian review panel the authority to retain a criminal investigative consultant and designating that the auditor would serve for a term between two and five years in order to maintain continuity and independence.
Neither the new independent auditor nor the civilian review panel can conduct its own investigations, take testimony, or interview witnesses who may not have been involved in the police department’s investigation.
When the Board of Supervisors met to discuss the civilian review panel in December, independent counsel Julia Judkins informed the board that state law prevents advisory bodies like the panel from having that kind of authority.
“If there were laws at the state level preventing them from creating an independent oversight that was community controlled, then the state needs to fix that too,” Utley said. “But there are things they can do to make incremental change, and they’re just not doing it.”
For his part, Roessler says that he welcomes the criticism and hopes that more community members will actively engage in these discussions with the police department and other public safety agencies.
“I’m really grateful that our community members were direct with all of us,” Roessler said. “I really appreciate that because that’s the way that we can engage and create change.”
Fairfax County Cops and their bitch Raymond F. Morrogh investigate cop shooting and ….wait for it….find the cops innocent.
Officer in Herndon Shooting Won't Face Charges: Police
By Dan Taylor (Patch Staff) - May 21, 2017 1:01 pm ET
HERNDON, VA — A police officer who fatally shot a man after a double shooting and barricade situation in Herndon earlier this year won't face any criminal charges for his actions, the Fairfax County Police Department announced in a statement.
Fairfax County Commonwealth's Attorney Raymond F. Morrogh informed Police Chief Col. Edwin Roessler on May 19 that he found "no basis for criminal liability on the part of the officer," the statement notes.
Master Police Officer Lance Guckenberger, a 16-year veteran of the force who fought for months to keep himself anonymous until his name was released in early March, shot to death Mohammad Azim Doudzai in the 13300 block of Covered Wagon Lane on Jan. 16. Doudzai allegedly shot two men at that location and then barricaded himself in his home, which eventually caught fire, endangering the life of another person in the house.
"Due to the escalating violent and threatening behavior by Mohammad Azim Doudzai and the urgent safety concerns for the person trapped in the home who was reporting to Dispatchers that he was having trouble breathing, Master Police Officer Lance Guckenberger, a 16-year veteran currently assigned to the Special Operations Division deployed his department issued firearm to stop the active threat created by Mohammad Azim Doudzai and allowed the rescue of the trapped man in the home," the statement reads.
Police will conduct an internal administrative investigation "in accordance with our standard operating procedures," police said.
"Once the administrative investigation is completed, the Chief will make a decision whether to release 9-1-1 audio tapes and Helicopter video related to this incident," the statement adds.
In-Custody Death Investigation Underway; Initial Indications Suggest Nothing Suspicious
BY FCPD MEDIA RELATIONS BUREAU ON APRIL 16, 2017
Detectives are investigating the death of an inmate that occurred today, Sunday, April 16, at the Fairfax County Adult Detention Center, located at 10520 Judicial Drive in Fairfax. Sheriff’s deputies discovered a 49-year-old woman unresponsive inside her cell around 9:10 a.m. They began CPR and called for emergency medical personnel, who pronounced her dead.
Detectives responded, as it is our protocol to investigate all in-custody deaths. Detectives have established there were no apparent signs of trauma and the decedent was alone in the cell. She has been incarcerated since Wednesday, April 12.
Her identity will be released once we make appropriate notifications. The Office of the Chief Medical Examiner will conduct an autopsy to determine the exact cause and manner of death. An update on the investigation will be provided within 30 days or as information becomes available.
officer can move forward
By: Alexandra Limon
ALEXANDRIA, Va. - A federal judge said a lawsuit against Fairfax County that alleges a police officer used excessive force can move forward.
The September 2015 incident showing an officer using a stun gun on Elton Cansler was recorded by witnesses on their cell phones in a shopping plaza in the Franconia area of Fairfax County.
During a hearing on Friday, the judge referred to the video calling it "pretty clear evidence" documenting what happened.
dge rules lawsuit claiming excessive force by Fairfax County officer can move forward
“I'm feeling good that everything is going forward,” said Cansler.
The lawsuit filed by Cansler and his attorneys states that the amount of force used by Officer Alan Hanks was excessive.
“The suit alleges a violation of his Fourth Amendment rights,” said Maxwelle Sokol, Cansler’s attorney.
Those rights guarantee a reasonable amount of force during an arrest. The portion of the lawsuit states that department policies violate those constitutional protections.
Several days after the incident, Fairfax County Police Chief Edwin Roessler held a press conference clearing Officer Hanks of any wrongdoing and saying he complied with policy.
“If a police department's policy says using the Taser as it was used in this case is fine, then that is a deficient policy,” said Sokol.
However, the portion of the suit that names the police chief personally as a defendant was dismissed. But it can be filed again at a later time.
Fairfax County officials and attorneys declined to comment due to pending litigation. They instead referred us back to a written statement released by Chief Roessler in 2015 that said in part:
“The officer, a seven year member of the department, currently assigned to the Franconia District Station, was confronted by a man, later identified as Elton Cansler, who was physically resisting a lawful arrest, assaulted the officer, and kept reaching to his pocket where a knife had been seen by the officer. At the time of the deployment of the ECW, the officer could not see where Mr. Cansler’s hands were going and had reasonable fear that Mr. Cansler was again reaching into his pocket for the knife.
“The officer’s discretion was appropriately used to deploy a form of a less-lethal force and in compliance with all policies and laws in this matter.”
Cansler's attorney said the video shows his hands remained on the hood of the cruiser when he was Tased.
“I just want right to be right,” Cansler said.
The lawsuit does not ask for a specific amount of money. Instead, it leaves that up to a jury.
YOU CAN'T REGULATE
A PUNK ATTITUDE
Fairfax County Civilian Review Panel Sworn in
Inaugural meeting of the Civilian Review Panel
The nine members of the Civilian Review Panel marked with *: Gerarda Culipher, Deputy Clerk of the Circuit Court; Randy Sayles,* Oak Hill; Rhonda VanLowe,* Reston; Kathleen Davis-Siudut,* Springfield; Adrian Steel,* McLean, chairman of the panel; Sharon Bulova, chairman of the Board of Supervisors; Judge William Webster; Supervisor John Cook, chairman of Public Safety Committee; Jean Senseman,* Lorton; Douglas Kay,* Fairfax; Hollye Doane,* Oakton; Steve Descano,* Springfield; and Hansel Aguilar,* Fairfax. Photo by Mary Kimm.
Former director of the FBI and CIA, Judge William Webster addressed inaugural meeting of the Civilian Review Panel on Monday, March 20 about the importance of civilian oversight.
Judge William Webster and Adrian Steel, chairman of the inaugural Civilian Review Panel. Steel was special assistant to Webster at the FBI.
#The nine members of the Fairfax County Civilian Review Panel were sworn in at the panel’s inaugural meeting on Monday, March 20.
#Judge William Webster, former director of the FBI and CIA, spoke on the importance of civilian oversight of law enforcement. “Civilian oversight is important in a country where we want people to feel safe,” Webster said. He urged panel members to consider the promise he made when he joined the FBI: To do what the citizens expect in the way that the Constitution allows.
#The nine members appointed by the Board of Supervisors are: Hansel Aguilar, Fairfax; Kathleen Davis-Siudut, Springfield; Steve Descano, Springfield; Hollye Doane, Oakton; Douglas Kay, Fairfax; Randy Sayles, Oak Hill; Jean Senseman, Lorton; Adrian Steel, McLean, chairman; and Rhonda VanLowe, Reston. They were among more than 140 applicants for the volunteer positions.
#“This is historic,” said Sharon Bulova, chairman of the Board of Supervisors. “The creation of this panel and the creation of the independent auditor position were two of the primary recommendations of the Ad Hoc Commission.”
#Bulova appointed the 30-member Ad Hoc Police Practices Review Commission in October 2015 in the wake of public concern after the police shooting death of John Geer in August 2013. The commission, which included full participation of the Fairfax County Police Department, made 140 recommendations, most either already implemented or in process.
#FCPD Police Chief Edwin Roessler pledged his support to the panel on Monday, saying that it would help “build upon the trust the public gives us.”
#The Civilian Review Panel will act as an independent avenue for residents to submit complaints concerning allegations of abuse of authority or misconduct by a FCPD officer. The panel will have the authority to request and review completed Police Department internal administrative investigations regarding a civilian complaint against an officer. The panel may hold public meetings to review police administrative investigations and walk through with members of the community how the investigation was conducted, including findings of fact, evidence collected and witness statements.
#The Civilian Review Panel will not address use of force by police that results in serious injury or death; those will be monitored by the newly hired Police Auditor, Richard G. Schott.