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.