By Tom Jackman July 27
A special grand jury, rarely empaneled in Fairfax County, began hearing testimony Monday in the 2013 killing of an unarmed Springfield man by a Fairfax police officer, hearing first from a Fairfax homicide detective and then from the longtime partner of the victim, John B. Geer.
The jury is expected to meet at least through the end of this week and then again in mid-August, Michael Lieberman, a lawyer for Geer’s family, said prosecutors told him. The jury may hear from at least 20 witnesses subpoenaed by Fairfax commonwealth’s attorney Raymond F. Morrogh, and jurors could then request additional witnesses or evidence, Morrogh has said.
Geer, 46, was shot dead in the doorway of his home on Aug. 29, 2013. Fairfax police said in January that the shooter was Officer Adam D. Torres, 32, who is on paid administrative leave from his patrol duties but has not otherwise been disciplined by the police and has not been charged. It is not known whether Torres will seek to testify before the grand jury.
Lieberman said the prosecution’s presentation began with Detective John Farrell, the lead homicide detective, outlining the case for the grand jury in the morning. Then Geer’s partner, Maura Harrington, took her turn, with nearly all of her time in the courtroom spent listening to a 75-minute secretly taped interview she gave to Farrell moments after learning that Geer was dead, Lieberman said in an interview.
On the day Geer was killed, Harrington had informed him that she had signed an apartment lease and was moving out. She said Geer called her to say that he was tossing her belongings out of their townhouse, and after one of their teenage daughters also called her, she drove home from work. Soon after her arrival, she called 911 to seek police help.
Fairfax County Police Officers Rodney Barnes, left, and Adam D. Torres outside the townhouse of John B. Geer on Aug. 29, 2013. Torres fired one shot and killed Geer while Barnes was negotiating with him. (Courtesy of Maura Harrington)
Instead, a standoff ensued, with Geer standing behind his screen door. Torres told detectives that Geer had showed him a holstered gun. While Officer Rodney Barnes spoke calmly with Geer, Torres fired one shot into Geer’s chest after about 40 minutes, police records show.
[From January: John B. Geer had his hands up when shot by police, four officers say in documents]
Harrington was in a nearby townhouse with her two daughters and snapped several photos of Torres aiming at Geer. She did not see Torres fire but heard the shot and said the officers “looked surprised. They ran towards cover.”
After Geer was found dead, Farrell interviewed Harrington in his car. It wasn’t until April 2014, when the Justice Department took up the case and presented her with a transcript of the conversation, that she learned she had been recorded.
The entire tape was played for the special grand jury, Harrington said, and the jurors asked only two questions: When did she get the call from Geer that led to her coming home, and how long did it take to get home? She said a prosecutor asked a couple of questions about her photos, and she was done testifying.
Geer can be seen here standing in the doorway with his hands on the frame of his screen door, shortly before he was shot. (Courtesy of Maura Harrington)
“I don’t know what to think,” Harrington said after her testimony. “If I was in there [on the jury], I would’ve asked a whole lot of questions. I would want to get it right.”
Lieberman said Harrington’s testimony was “relatively unimportant” because she could not see Geer or hear the dialogue between him and the officers in the 42-minute period between when Torres arrived and when the shooting occurred.
“The prosecutors have an enormous amount of power as to how they present this to a jury,” Lieberman said. “In the end, it’s going to come down to how it’s presented.”
A special grand jury is different than others in that jurors focus only on one case, where regular grand juries hear many cases. The special grand jury for the Geer case consists of nine Fairfax residents, Lieberman said, selected last month by Chief Fairfax Circuit Court Judge Bruce D. White without the participation of prosecution or defense lawyers, as Virginia law requires. When testimony and evidence presentations are concluded, Morrogh will present one or more possible indictments. A simple majority of the special grand jury, but no less than five members, must vote to return a “true bill” of indictment for charges to be brought, or they can issue “no true bill,” in which no charges are filed and the case ends.
Morrogh said in April that he wanted a grand jury process, rather than just making a charging decision himself, because “I want to put witnesses under oath and get their testimony, and I want that done in front of citizens, and have citizens ask their own questions.”
Tom Jackman is a native of Northern Virginia and has been covering the region for The Post since 1998.
Four Police Dogs Have Died in Five Weeks After Being Forgotten in Hot Cars
A Georgia K9 officer at Savannah State University died earlier this month after his handler mistakenly left him in a hot car – the second such police dog death in the state this month and the fourth nationwide since mid-June.
Baston, a 7-year-old German shepherd, passed away on July 10 at his handler's home in Rincon, Georgia, after being left in the car for three to four hours, according to police reports.
Authorities say that Baston was forgotten in the back seat of the car after his unidentified handler brought in food to his family at home. The handler then had dinner and fell asleep before realizing he left the K9 in the car. But by the time the handler reached the car, Baston was dead.
The windows had been rolled up and the engine was turned off. Baston was rushed inside and put into a cool bath – but it was too late. Weather reports show temperatures that day reached above 95 degrees.
Baston joined the SSU Police Department in 2010 and helped multiple local law enforcement agencies during his time on duty.
"The Savannah State University family is saddened by the loss of K9 officer Baston," SSU said in a statement to PEOPLE. "He contributed significantly to the safety of all on the SSU campus for the past five years. Baston's skills were also employed to assist surrounding law enforcement agencies and departments."
Baston's death comes within days of the death of another Georgia K9. Zane, a 5-year-old bloodhound with Conyers Police Department, was found dead on the afternoon of July 16 after being left in his handler's car for about 10 hours, officials told PEOPLE.
Zane's handler, Cpl. Jerahmy Williams, had come off a 12-hour shift and felt ill. Breaking his normal routine, he skipped the gym, went straight home and fell asleep, Conyers police spokesperson Kim Lucas said.
Williams discovered his mistake when he woke up, and he immediately called his supervisor, Lucas said. He was placed on paid leaving pending an investigation, but is "completely devastated," she said.
"We fully believe this was a sheer accident," she said.
There are no laws in Georgia that prevent officers from keeping their dogs in the car, according to WTOC. "A law like that would hinder dogs from being effective. They need to be able to be on a scene in minutes," one handler told the station.
Lucas says it's within department regulation to briefly leave a dog in a vehicle as long as it's running – and vehicles such as Williams' are equipped with additional safety measures while the ignition is on, which trigger if the car overheats.
Since mid-June, there have been two other such police dog deaths around the country.
Mason, a 3-year-old "community engagement officer" in Gulf Shores, Alabama, died in on June 18 after being left in the back of a patrol car while on duty. And on June 30, a Stockton, California, K9 named Nitro died after the air-conditioner failed in his police car.
Stockton Police spokesperson Joe Silva shared with PEOPLE what his department is doing to prevent any further K9 deaths.
"Handlers have been directed to leave their K9 partners at home on days the weather forecast calls for 100 degrees or more, until new vehicles are put into service," he said.
Silva also said that while this is the first incident he can recall of this kind at SPD, everyone should take precaution when it comes to leaving anyone or anything in a hot car.
"Everyone needs to remember that dogs are more vulnerable to high temperatures than people," he said. "Animals can sustain brain damage or even die from heatstroke in just 15 minutes."
• Additional reporting by ADAM CARLSON
When I was a reporter covering the news in Fairfax County, we often referred to the Fairfax County Police Department as the KGB. They were the secret police,
Critics Outline 'Crisis Of Confidence' Between Fairfax County Police, Public
By: Michael Pope
July 27, 2015
Leaders of the Fairfax County Police Department are in for some harsh criticism. Tonight, they'll be meeting with critics who have written a pointed report outlining what they call a "crisis of confidence." The document is part of a commission created earlier this year to review the police department in the wake of several high-profile cases.
Back in 2006, Fairfax County police leaders sent a SWAT team to raid a gambling game and killed Sal Culosi. The name of the officer was not released for months. Then, in 2009, Fairfax police killed David Masters, an unarmed driver. They kept the dashboard video secret for years. More recently, Fairfax officials came under heavy criticism for the death of John Geer, an unarmed Springfield man who was killed in 2013.
Now, after a groundswell of criticism, a new report says communications in those cases and others were "mishandled, inadequate and untimely, leading to a loss of public trust and questions about the legitimacy of police actions."
"The message I get from that report is, 'Chief, you need to do better, and I am trying,'" says Fairfax County Police Chief Edwin Roessler, who sat down with WAMU to talk about the report and his reaction to its recommendations. "You need more access to me, to this agency and we need to provide more information through social media as they unfold."
But, Roessler says, he will not be releasing the report his department conducted on the death of a woman who died after being hit with a Taser stun gun several times while she was handcuffed. He would also not commit to releasing dashboard video footage or body camera footage of officer-involved shootings. He also wouldn't commit to releasing the names his employees who are involved in officer involved shootings within a week.
Those are the kinds of decisions that Dave Statter says have given the department a bad reputation.
"When I was a reporter covering the news in Fairfax County, we often referred to the Fairfax County Police Department as the KGB. They were the secret police," says Statter, a longtime reporter for WUSA who is now a member of the panel that wrote the report. "Many departments, because of sunshine laws, are required to release that type of information. They still prosecute cases. They still handle the privacy issues. So I think it's important to find ways to do this rather than to look for ways not to."
The report recommends the police department adopt what it calls a "predisposition to disclose," an approach that would presume records are public and that exemptions be narrowly construed. It also says that the department release names of officers who kill civilians as well as video of those events in addition to basic details of every incident and call to the department.
Let’s solve this problem once and for all in two steps
PUT CAMERAS ON THE IDIOTS
Fire that “Fuck you we’re never wrong police” Police chief and bring in somebody from way, way, way outside the Beltway to replace him.
An Iraq war veteran is accusing Fairfax County Police of using heavy handed tactics
By ABC 7 News, Roz Plater
July 25, 2015 - 11:13 pm
FAIRFAX, V.a. (WJLA ) - Alex Horton says it started Sunday morning June 14th. He was sound asleep in a model unit of his Alexandria apartment building while his unit was being repaired.
A neighbor thought he was a squatter and called police.
Horton says he woke to find three Fairfax County Police officers with their guns drawn.
"They came in and swept from either side with their guns drawn," Horton said. "Then one leapt on the bed and handcuffed me; my face was down."
Horton continued saying, "My risk of violent death went up a hundred percent that morning and I was doing nothing wrong."
He wrote about his experience on social media and in an Op-Ed for the Washington Post.
Then in a surprising move Fairfax County Police Chief Edwin Roessler issued a statement on Twitter saying in part:
"I can assure you no SWAT response was utilized in the response to this call for service. However, the Fairfax County Police Department takes seriously the writer’s remarks and as such, an inquiry by the Department’s Internal Affairs Bureau is being conducted at my direction."
The Chief also seemed to take issue with Horton calling it a "raid". But the Iraq Veteran sees it differently.
"I know what a raid is," Horton stated. "It's when you enter a person's house of building without knowledge of them coming, and you seek to subdue whoever is inside as quickly as possible. And that's precisely what they did."
Horton says he welcomes the internal affairs investigation, but isn't hopeful much will change.
"If they come back and say case closed...I expect them to do that."
His story is getting national traction on Twitter. He says he hopes it will ignite a debate that might prompt change.
"They're going to look at it and they're not going to have any self criticism," Horton said. "They will say this is according to the book, but they will not look to see if the book itself is wrong."
2013 Fairfax Police Shooting of Unarmed Man With Hands Up Leading to New Training, Policies
From Reason .Org
The police's image has to improve, says a communications subcommittee charged with proposing reforms.
Ed Krayewski|Jul. 24, 2015 12:15 pm
Maura Harrington/via the Washington PostIn August 2013, a Fairfax county police officer shot and killed John Geer as the unarmed man stood in the doorway of his home, then waited an hour to provide medical assistance while his family pleaded for help.
Local authorities refused to release the name of the officer who shot Geer for 17 months, identifying him as Adam Torres only after the family filed a wrongful death suit against the county's police chief. Fairfax County settled for $2.95 million in taxpayer money, but refused to admit any liability or wrongdoing as part of the settlement.
The county is still, technically, deciding whether to charge Torres, as an internal investigation remains open nearly two years after the killing of Geer. The lawsuit did uncover some new information about the incident—several witnesses, including four police officers, contradicted Torres' assertion that Geer was reaching for his waistband. They say he had his hands near his head.
Local outrage over the slow pace of the Geer investigation, and a lack of transparency from Fairfax county police, led the county to set upan "Ad Hoc Police Practices Review Commission" with five subcommittees to propose reforms: on communications, independent oversight and investigation, mental health and crisis intervention training, recruitment, diversity and vetting, and use of force.
A new report from the communications subcommittee decries the "lip service" paid to transparency by county police. Via the Washington Post:
"Communications in recent high-profile use-of-force and critical incident cases were mishandled, inadequate and untimely" the report states, "leading to loss of public trust and questions about the legitimacy of police actions…If the department had policies that fostered real transparency, it's unlikely the controversies in recent years would have lasted so long and there likely would not have even been a call to form this commission."
That's a questionable assertion—Geer was shot while unarmed and standing in the doorway of his home. Had county police been more forthcoming about what happened and that the officer who killed Geer would not face any serious consequences, would that have allayed public outrage? More worryingly, the assertion implies preventing public outrage is more important than adopting new policies that impose accountability onto police officers.
The report did have specific recommendations, including that police should:
release the names of officers involved in shootings within a week, saying the national average is two days, and to immediately release all video and audio recordings if a citizen is killed. The committee also calls on the police to shorten the current 6-20 month timeframe to internally investigate officer-involved shootings and be responsive to questions from the public and news media.
The Torres investigation has been open for more nearly 24 months. Some of the transparency issues, the Washington Post and the subcommittee report note, arise from a state freedom of information law that provides an exception to records in "criminal investigative files," which county police use to reject requests for any police reports. While the Fairfax county government should, theoretically, have the power to order police to limit their use of that exception, a deputy county attorney told the subcommittee it should get the state law changed if they want the practice of rejecting FOIA requests to end. The issue of a lack of transparency in Fairfax police, especially when deadly force is involved, has been a long-standing concern.
The Police Executive Research Forum, an organization of police executives from around the country, had also been asked to review the county police's use of force policies. The review was requested before the Geer shooting but didn't start till nearly a year after Geer was killed. It includes 71 recommendations, such as including "de-escalation," a "duty to intervene" for cops who see other cops acting inappropriately, and a "sanctity of life" statement in the use of force policy. The report also recommends the county not train recruits on how to fire a gun as the first thing in their training.
Why don't we just buy a police uniform for Fairfax Commonwealth’s Attorney Raymond F. Morrogh and get on with it?
Fairfax prosecutors back off on calling police shooting victim’s daughter to grand jury
By Tom Jackman
In response to concerns raised by her family, the teenaged daughter of a man shot dead by a Fairfax County police officer in 2013 will not be called by prosecutors to testify before a special grand jury, which will begin its investigation in the Fairfax courthouse on Monday. But she will remain under subpoena and could still be called if the grand jurors seek her testimony, the family’s lawyer said Thursday.
John B. Geer, 46, was standing in the doorway of his Springfield townhouse on Aug. 29, 2013, when he was shot dead by Officer Adam D. Torres. Fairfax Commonwealth’s Attorney Raymond F. Morrogh has subpoenaed about 20 witnesses to appear before a special grand jury which will decide whether to indict Torres, including police officers who saw the shooting, Geer’s longtime girlfriend Maura Harrington, and their 19-year-old daughter Haylea Geer.
Haylea Geer did not witness the shooting, which occurred after a 42-minute standoff between Geer and the police. But she did see Geer’s behavior prior to the police arrival, when Geer was tossing Harrington’s belongings out of the house, police reports show. And reports show she also told detectives immediately after the shooting that her father could be abusive when drinking and had once put a gun to her mother’s head, which Harrington said was false.
[Family slams subpoena of John Geer’s teen daughter to Fairfax grand jury]
Harrington and her attorney, Michael Lieberman, were outraged that Haylea Geer was subpoenaed to testify, and Lieberman sent a letter to Morrogh asking that he reconsider. Morrogh responded with a letter Thursday saying that Haylea Geer would not have to appear when the grand jury begins hearing testimony Monday, so long as she was available on another date if the grand jurors themselves request her.
“The grand jury, itself,” Morrogh wrote, “can subpoena any person who they deem necessary to their deliberations. At the outset, it is my duty to begin the process by issuing subpoenas to the primary witnesses to the events in question. I have done so. At this point I cannot anticipate what the scope of the grand jury investigation will be.”
Morrogh wrote that he could not recall the subpoena to Haylea Geer, but would not ask her to testify, though the grand jury still might.
Lieberman said he was glad to learn of Morrogh’s decision. “We appreciate the courtesy,” Lieberman said, “and we don’t think she should ever have to appear. She did not see the incident where Torres intentionally shot her father.”
John Geer, having learned that Harrington was moving out of their Springfield home of 24 years, had begun throwing her belongings outside while their two daughters, then 17 and 12, watched and then called their mother. Harrington returned home from work and when Geer continued to toss her items around, she called 911. Torres and Officer David Neil responded, Geer retreated behind his screen door and, according to Torres, showed the officers a holstered pistol. Neil and Torres drew their weapons, and soon Officer Rodney Barnes arrived and began a 40-minute conversation with Geer before Torres suddenly fired one round into Geer’s chest.
Police reports show Torres claimed that Geer had suddenly jerked his hands to his waist. Barnes and three other officers, plus Geer’s father and best friend, all said Geer had his hands near his head, their statements show.
“John stood there for 45 minutes with his hands above his head,” Lieberman said, “speaking calmly with Officer Barnes, saying he didn’t want to die that day and then he was shot in the chest. Haylea doesn’t have anything to add to that…It is not the job of a prosecutor to put on a witness that is helpful to the defense. And hopefully, that’s not where they’re going.”
Morrogh declined to comment on the letter Thursday. Torres remains on the force, on desk duty, and has not faced any internal discipline either, though an internal affairs investigation began in September 2014. Fairfax settled the family’s civil suit in April for $2.95 million.
Tom Jackman is a native of Northern Virginia and has been covering the region for The Post since 1998.
This, this report, dreamt up by Sharon “Show me the money” Bulova, is a toothless tiger all done for show at the expense of good and well-meaning people.
The cops aren’t required to do anything this report recommends nor will they do anything recommended in this report.
Look, this is very simple. Put body cameras on the idiots, fire the chief of police and bring someone in from way, way, way outside the beltway to run things. Problem solved.
Report: Fairfax police need ‘real change — now’ in public communications
By Tom Jackman
A committee assigned to examine how the Fairfax County Police Department communicates with the public has issued a blunt report which pulls no punches: “Real change is needed — now,” the report says, criticizing the police for their “lip service to the idea of transparency” on both breaking incidents and routine information requests.
“It is well past time for the Fairfax County Police Department to start providing timely, honest and effective communications with everything it does,” the new report declares. “We deserve nothing less.”
The report was issued by one of five subcommittees formed within the Ad Hoc Police Practices Review Commission, formed by Fairfax Chairman Sharon Bulova in March after public outcry over the lack of information or movement in the still unresolved police shooting of John Geer in Springfield. Geer was shot and killed by Officer Adam D. Torres in August 2013 as he stood unarmed in the doorway of his home, but police refused to discuss the case or even disclose the officer’s name until January 2015, after Geer’s family sued Fairfax police Chief Edwin C. Roessler Jr. for wrongful death. A special grand jury is scheduled to begin hearing testimony on the case Monday.
In addiion to the Ad Hoc commission, an analysis of the Fairfax police’s use of force policies by the Police Executive Research Forum — requested by Roessler before the Geer shooting, but not launched until July 2014 — resulted in 71 recommended changes to the policies, and Roessler said he would make 70 of them. The changes are not drastic, but one in particular could be transformative: A suggestion that Fairfax not begin its training of new recruits with the mechanics of firing a gun, as it does now.
“PERF believes it is important to change this approach,” executive director Chuck Wexler wrote. “The first days and weeks of recruit training should focus on the most significant issues, concepts and values of policing in a democratic society,” to include the role of police in protecting constitutional rights, the sanctity of human life, use-of-force policies and crisis intervention strategies.
Wexler presented the report to the Ad Hoc commission last month, even though it has its own “Use of Force” subcommittee devising its own report. The following week, at the subcommittee’s meeting, Roessler said he embraced the PERF report, which also calls for revamping the way officers decide whether to use force and increasing the number of officers trained to deal with mentally disturbed subjects. Lawyer and commissioner Joseph Cammarata asked the chief whether he would do more than just issue new directives, but actually provide direct training on the new approaches.
“Will you be retraining everybody on use of force?” Cammarata asked.
“I have to. Yes,” Roessler said.
In addition to use of force, the Ad Hoc commission is focusing on four other areas: communications; mental health and crisis intervention training;recruitment, diversity and vetting; and independent oversight and investigations. All five subcommittees are to submit reports and recommendations to the full 34-member commission, for presentation to the Board of Supervisors on Oct. 1, and the communications committee weighed in first with a powerful analysis and detailed recommendations to overhaul the way Fairfax police communicate with their community.
“Communications in recent high-profile use-of-force and critical incident cases were mishandled, inadequate and untimely” the report states, “leading to loss of public trust and questions about the legitimacy of police actions…If the department had policies that fostered real transparency, it’s unlikely the controversies in recent years would have lasted so long and there likely would not have even been a call to form this commission.”
The committee calls on the Board of Supervisors to “insist on policies that lean toward releasing information as soon as possible,” whether in daily communications, during a significant event or in a Freedom of Information Act request, which it says the police have a “blanket approach” of rejecting records requests whenever legally able to do so. “There must be significant change coming from the leadership of the county and the Fairfax County Police Department,” Fitzgerald’s committee wrote.
Among the specific recommendations, the committee urges police to release the names of officers involved in shootings within a week, saying the national average is two days, and to immediately release all video and audio recordings if a citizen is killed. The committee also calls on the police to shorten the current 6-20 month timeframe to internally investigate officer-involved shootings and be responsive to questions from the public and news media. In the Geer case, the Fairfax police rejected numerous requests for the name of the officer and only released it after it was ordered provided to Geer’s family by a judge, 16 months after the shooting. The internal investigation of Torres remains open 10 months after it was begun.
Virginia’s Freedom of Information law allows law enforcement agencies to withhold any information in a “criminal investigative file” indefinitely, though it has the discretion to release it as well. Fairfax police, with the guidance of the Fairfax County attorney, have long rejected all requests for police reports of any type. Earlier this month, longtime deputy county attorney Peter D. Andreoli Jr. advised Fitzgerald’s committee that if they wanted to change that approach, they should go to Richmond and change the law.
The committee ignored that suggestion. Instead, they called on the Board of Supervisors to “publicly adopt a resolution…to revisit FOIA laws with an eye toward expanding instead of limiting the public release of information related to police-involved shootings and other police practices and procedures related to official police activities…changing the current policy of automatically withholding all exempt records.”
Roessler read the report and said, “I don’t have a negative reaction to this. Some of the items we have been implementing already,” such as seeking to hire a permanent civilian spokesman, rather than a rotating police commander, and starting to shift the officer handling FOIA requests from the internal affairs unit to the public information office.
Roessler said he appreciated the feedback from members of the community and wanted to keep them active and available to advise him after the Ad Hoc commission formally disbands. The communications report suggested the Board of Supervisors hold community forums every six months starting next year to review the progress Fairfax police are making on the commission’s recommendations, and Roessler said he agreed with that.
Fitzgerald, who was the county’s main spokesperson for 14 years until her retirement last year, said, “Mistakes have been made. So moving foward, the easier part will be to change things like policies, procedures, staffing. The harder part will be changing the culture. And to get the culture of transparency we deserve and want to see is going to make some people uncomfortable.”
Can the Fairfax police change a culture where the tendency is often to release the least amount of information possible? “I understand what they’re saying,” Roessler said. He said he was pushing for a greater presence in social media and quicker release of breaking news. Both he and Fitzgerald noted that the police have provided vast amounts of data and cooperation to the Ad Hoc commission.
But what about releasing actual police reports, virtually never done now? “I’m considering a change,” Roessler said. “There’s got to be more dialogue about how we respond to this. This is a national dialogue, and the profession needs to change. I need to help this department change. This is the community’s voice and I need to actively listen and implement where I can.”
After the commission compiles the five committee reports and submits a full report to the Board of Supervisors on Oct. 1, the police will have about three weeks to prepare a detailed response on how they plan to handle the report’s recommendations. The supervisors’ public safety committee will then have a rare meeting on Oct. 27, a week before Election Day, to discuss what they will ask the police to implement.
Do the police have to do the supervisors’ bidding? “I report to them,” Roessler said. “They can work with me to direct policy changes. That’s their prerogative, and they’re my employer. I don’t see any conflict with getting these recommendations in place.”
The commissioners on the communications subcommittee, chaired by Fitzgerald, are Deputy Chief Tom Ryan, police assistant spokeswoman Lucy Caldwell, current county spokesman Tony Castrilli, lawyers Doug Kay and Eric Clingan, Connection newspapers publisher Mary Kimm, former WUSA-9 reporter and current blogger Dave Statter, Tim Thompson and Daniela Cockayne from the county’s federation of citizens association and police homicide Det. John Wallace. Non-commissioners also serving are Darryl Drevna, Patrick Smaldore, Brennan Murphy, Jose Santos and Darryl Dennis.
New Report Finds American Taxpayers Have Paid More Than $1B in Five Years for Police Misconduct Cases
So lets see now, the cops break the law and kill people and the people pay for it while cop gets away without paying any money or having money taken from their budgets and never get arrested...ITS GOOD TO SEE FAIRFAX COUNTY IS IN STEP WITH THE REST OF THE COUNTRY.
Bad policing has cost American taxpayers more than $1 billion, according to a report by The Wall Street Journal. WSJ reporters Zusha Elinson and Dan Frosch conducted an in-depth study of public records and found the cost of settling police misconduct cases has almost doubled over a five-year period.
“The 10 cities with the largest police departments paid out $248.7 million last year in settlements and court judgments in police-misconduct cases, up 48 percent from $168.3 million in 2010, according to data gathered by The Wall Street Journal through public-records requests,” reported the WSJ. “Those cities collectively paid out $1.02 billion over those five years in such cases, which include alleged beatings, shootings and wrongful imprisonment.”
Ultimately, taxpayers end up footing the bill for these settlements. Cities either pay the legal costs by self-insuring, with the money coming from city funds, or the cases are handled by insurance companies. But just like car insurance, the more claims filed, the higher the premium. However, officers rarely end up paying out of their pockets for bad behavior. Notorious Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio has managed to fend off several decades of lawsuits, because the county picks up the tab. The Arizona Republic reported lawsuits against the Maricopa sheriff’s department have cost the county $44 million. And that’s one of the reasons why Arpaio stays in office. The minute he retires, he becomes responsible for the legal costs, according to a Salon article.
Of all the the cities tracked by the WSJ, New York had the costliest police department, racking up $601.3 million in legal costs over five years. Payments for settlements and judgments jumped from $93.8 in fiscal year 2013 to $165 million in 2014, reported the WSJ. The city recently paid the family of Eric Garner, who was choked to death during an altercation with Staten Island police, a $5.9 million settlement.
Sometimes incidents of police abuse are so blatant municipalities want to settle the cases quickly to stop bad publicity. The County of San Bernardino took two weeks to pay Francis Pusok $650,000 after a news helicopter captured sheriff’s deputies kicking and punching him. Pusok didn’t even have time to file a lawsuit before he received a cash settlement
Police in Prince William prepare to use body cameras
By Victoria St. Martin July 19
If all goes according to plan, by next summer, Prince William County police officers will be wearing not only uniforms and bulletproof vests, but also body cameras.
Before officers don devices that could record each traffic stop or arrest, the department teamed with Fairfax County police to see exactly what’s out there.
“This is new technology. It’s evolving,” said Lt. Javid Elahi, the Prince William County Police Department’s information technology manager. “There’s a lot of pieces that go to this — it’s not just as simple as buying a camera and turning it on. You need to have policy, you need to have infrastructure, you need to have people to manage it.”
To put to rest questions such as how body cameras weigh and feel, the two departments hosted an expo in Chantilly last week with about 35 vendors. Organizers said hundreds of police departments from near and far registered, including those in the District and Montgomery County.
Sgt. Kim Chinn, a Prince William police spokeswoman, said the two-day expo was all about research.
“It’s new technology that we’re all going to have to get comfortable with, and I think there’s anxiety as well as the feeling that we may need this to protect ourselves, so there will be quite a learning curve,” Chinn said.
“It’s not like you go out and just buy a new car,” she added. “There’s so much that goes with it — all the backup, the storage, the retrieval, the managing, the randomly pulling tapes, pulling them for court, things like that. It’s a huge project.”
And it’s a project Prince William police said they are ready to tackle.
In April, county officials approved a $3 million plan to equip 500 of the department’s officers with the technology.
“My preference for body cameras is they go more places and see more interactions,” Police Chief Stephan Hudson said after the action.
Criminologists, police accountability advocates and officers say body cameras are beneficial because they provide a video record of interactions with the public. After last summer’s shooting of 18-year-old Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., police departments across the nation began examining their camera policies.
Prince William plans to kick off a pilot program with 35 cameras by next year, said Tom Pulaski, who oversees the department’s technical services division.
At the expo, Capt. Todd Jones of the Virginia Beach police examined the types of body cameras.
“We want to research thoroughly and make as educated a guess as we can,” said Jones, who added that his department has been examining the technology for three years. “Every time we answer one question, we uncover three or four or 10 more.”
Tod Burke, a criminal justice professor at Radford University and a former police officer in Ocean City and Howard County in Maryland, said that when it comes to the issue of body cameras, throwing money at the problem won’t solve it.
“That’s like throwing a Band-Aid on a hemorrhage,” he said. “You have to have policies in place with proper law enforcement training and, certainly, community education.”
Burke said policies should address sensitive situations, such as a domestic dispute — would the camera be on or off? Also, he noted, the technology raises concerns about witnesses and informants, and officer safety issues.
“You want to be able, as a police officer, to react to a situation,” Burke said. “You don’t want [them] to have to worry about, ‘Am I being recorded? Is something that I’m reporting going to be used against me?’ That type of thing. You don’t want them to hesitate.”
Burke said that cameras can’t prevent situations but that they can aid authorities, adding that early statistics show that departments with officers who wear body cameras have fewer incidents of police and citizen misconduct. And the video could help bolster eyewitness identification, said Burke, who usually conducts a class exercise that he says highlights the problems that arise when relying on witnesses alone.
He said he tells his class, “ ‘Okay, you’re a police officer, you’re giving a broadcast — be on the lookout for a white, black, Hispanic, transgender person, who is anywhere between 5-foot-5, 6-foot-3, 135 to 200 pounds,’ and they start laughing,” he said. “It’s not that [witnesses are] lying; this is really what they thought they saw.”
Burke said when it came to witnesses and Ferguson, there was a question of whether Brown had his hands up just before the shooting.
“Perception really does make a difference,” Burke said. He pointed to an investigation that later concluded that Brown’s hands probably were not raised. “The advantage of having a body camera at that time, that would have been answered.”
Nine minutes of obfuscation
By Editorial Board July 19
FOR NINE FULL MINUTES of a video released last week, Fairfax County Police Chief Edwin C. Roessler Jr. stared into a camera and delivered a bland recap of the in-custody death of Natasha McKenna, the 37-year-old woman who died Feb. 8 after sheriff’s deputies at the county jail shot her four times with a Taser stun gun. And for nine full minutes, Mr. Roessler, who announced the police investigation is finished, managed to reveal absolutely nothing.
Mr. Roessler did so while at the same time impugning Ms. McKenna, who was mentally ill, as a “combative” woman who refused commands and resisted removal from her cell. As if her death were her own fault.
Mr. Roessler was content to characterize her conduct but had virtually nothing to say about the conduct of the six jail guards who struggled with her. He mentioned neither the Taser company’s own warnings that repeated jolts may cause death; nor that Ms. McKenna was shot after she had been handcuffed; nor that the guards — kitted out like a SWAT team to subdue a 130-pound woman — appeared to have no training with de-escalation, which experts recommend in the event of confrontations with mentally ill people.
Mr. Roessler acknowledged that a video, shot by jail personnel, exists of the struggle between the guards and Ms. McKenna. But he offered no rationale for why the police have not released it. (They say it is “evidence,” as if that is an explanation; it isn’t.)
Mr. Roessler divulged neither the names nor the ranks nor the race(s) of the deputies who subdued Ms. McKenna, who was black. Nor did he offer any explanation of why that information — which has been released in other deaths at the hands of law enforcement officers around the country — is being kept secret in Fairfax.
Mr. Roessler’s presentation, a rehash of information reported by this newspaper and other news outlets months ago, was little more than an exercise in obfuscation. Why couldn’t six guards in an elite unit subdue a petite woman without shooting her repeatedly with a stun gun?
Mr. Roessler didn’t say. What was the sequence of events that led to Ms. McKenna becoming so agitated that a struggle broke out in her cell?
Mr. Roessler didn’t say.
The history of the McKenna case is one of official stonewalling accompanied by empty paeans to openness. At first, Sheriff Stacey A. Kincaid, whose office runs the jail, vowed transparency — after which she released no significant information. Then, Mr. Roessler said the police were committed to candor — and, at the conclusion of the police investigation, delivered nothing of the kind.
Now the case has been turned over to the chief prosecutor in Fairfax, Commonwealth’s Attorney Raymond F. Morrogh, whose office has never charged a police officer, let alone a jail guard, in the death of a civilian. Whether or not
Mr. Morrogh decides to bring criminal charges, it is critically important that he deliver a much fuller accounting to the public of the circumstances leading to Ms. McKenna’s death — including release of the video — than the sheriff and police have managed.