Commentary: Fairfax Supervisors’ Inaction on Police Commission Report
By John Lovaas/Reston Impact Producer/Host
#COMMUNITY NOTE: Reston Association election ballots must be returned for counting by COB Monday, April 4. There is only one real race—the At-Large seat. I suggest John Bowman, a person of integrity, knowledge and experience who cares about the community first. There is only one candidate for the other two posts. Both are excellent, not conflicted. Sherri Hebert is great, new blood for Lake Anne; Danielle La Rosa deserves a second term for North Point.
#Remember the Ad Hoc Commission to Review Police Practices created by Chairman Sharon Bulova after the 2013 police killing of unarmed John Geer and the outrage after two years of stonewalling by County Police and silence from the Board of Supervisors (BOS)? The 40-member Commission submitted its final report, with 142 unanimously adopted recommendations, to the BOS last October. In the five months since, the BOS has met just once to consider specific actions. It has agreed in principle to adopt the Report of the Commission, but not yet acted to initiate implementation of all its recommendations. The BOS just announced a second meeting planned for 10 a.m. on May 10 in Rooms 9/10 of the Fairfax County Gov’t. Center (Taj Mahal). Why the delay? In a recent Reston Forum on “Making Justice Work”, Supervisor Cathy Hudgins erroneously stated that the Board had in fact approved all recommendations, but additional careful consideration of implementation was required. She said the Board was “having a hard time organizing another meeting.”
#Meanwhile, the Washington Post sharply criticized the BOS for the delay and for preparing to undermine the Commission’s unanimous recommendation for oversight of police internal investigations by an independent auditor and for a Civilian Review Panel to receive citizen complaints about police abuses. In other words, it seems the delay may not be because the Supes can’t organize their own meeting, but because there are internal struggles going on over reform.
#Police organizations (would-be unions) whose reps (including Fairfax Coalition of Police President sitting across from me) voted for the Civilian Review Panel apparently are now trying to kill it. At the one BOS meeting held to date, the President of the Fairfax Fraternal Order of Police, Lodge 77, Brad Carruthers, told assembled Supervisors they should exercise caution in considering the recommendations since the whole Commission was only created because of complaints “from ten percent of the population who are anti-cops.” What!
#If reform is to be implemented and effect real change, independent oversight and civilian review advisory functions are indispensable for assuring the integrity of the changes. Experts stress the importance of independence of oversight. Although Police Chief Roessler and Chairman Bulova both say they support oversight and civilian review, the devil is likely in the details. Specifically, the more extreme voices are demanding that police be included on the Civilian Review Panel because only they truly understand the work of the police. In fact, we are where we are in Fairfax County today because there has been no oversight behind the steel blue curtain. A Civilian Review Panel is exactly that—civilian. It represents the community and provides an independent view. Let’s hope Chairman Bulova, Supervisor Hudgins and other Supervisors stand firm and are neither distracted nor intimidated from transforming the Fairfax County Police Department into a more responsive, topnotch force of which we all can be proud.