Fairfax sobriety checkpoint nets violations
Fairfax County police officers from the McLean District Station conducted a sobriety checkpoint at Route 50 and Graham Road in the Falls Church area May 13 to search for drunk drivers.
Officers screened 629 vehicles and did not cite any motorists for driving while intoxicated. However, police did issue seven traffic summonses and recorded one criminal violation.
AP , WUSA 4:32 PM. EST May 23, 2016
FAIRFAX, Va. (AP) - A former Fairfax County police spokesman has pleaded guilty to multiple counts of possessing child pornography.
The Washington Post reports that 50-year-old William "Bud" Walker pleaded guilty Monday in a Fairfax County courtroom to 10 counts of possessing child pornography. He was handcuffed and taken to the county jail immediately after his plea hearing.
Police began their investigation of Walker last year after receiving a tip from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children that child pornography had been uploaded from a home in Fairfax County.
Walker joined the force in 1999 and held several jobs in that time, including public information officer. He was also a school resource officer in South County High School from 2006 through 2009.
He will be sentenced in August.
Fairfax County: Supervisors Review Use of Force Guidelines
Public Safety Committee meets before June 21 vote: gun carry positions, release of information, body cameras discussed.
By Tim Peterson
The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors is standing by its Chief of Police and his department.
The board’s Public Safety Committee met May 24 to discuss additional questions that lingered or developed following its May 10 meeting to review recommendations for updating and improving the ways Fairfax County Police handle use of force situations and communications.
At that meeting and this latest one, the supervisors reviewed language that will become an action item — along with a matrix of recommendations, estimated costs and implementation statuses from the Ad Hoc Police Practices Review Commission and Police Executive Research Forum — for the board to vote on on June 21.
Deputy County Executive and former Chief of Police David Rohrer said he’s working on converting the text. It should be ready for the board to review, prior to the vote, by June 7.
Supervisor Cathy Hudgins (D-Hunter Mill) began the discussion with a question from a constituent regarding how police are trained to aim guns at or around a person’s center mass.
Lt. Brian Ruck from the Fairfax County Police Department gave a brief demonstration of the “ready gun,” “tac [tactical] ready” and “modified ready” carry positions using a blue fake firearm.
“It’s all about angles, so I can see the offender,” Ruck said, while raising and lowering his arms slightly to differentiate between the specified positions.
Ruck also demonstrated how officers are taught to keep their trigger finger on the frame of the handgun and off the trigger until the moment they intent to fire at their target.
“They need to articulate an immediate threat, a reasonable threat,” he said.
Supervisor Kathy Smith (D-Sully) expressed concern that a pilot for body cameras on police officers might not move forward until next year: “I’d hate to see us wait that long to do deal with this.”
Supervisor Jeff McKay (D-Lee) said one of the concerns with not moving forward yet had been legislation in the Virginia General Assembly on body cameras. “We don’t know what the state’s going to do,” McKay said.
Supervisor Pat Herrity (R-Springfield) expanded that being on the “bleeding edge” versus “cutting edge” of the technology might not be in the county’s best interests.
Supervisor Penny Gross (D-Mason) acknowledged her rare agreement with Herrity in this instance. “We could be bleeding a lot of taxpayer money if we get ahead of the law,” Gross said.
Phillip Niedzielski-Eichner, chairman of the Ad Hoc commission Use of Force subcommittee, brought up the recommendation that every police officer be required to have an Electronic Control Weapon (or taser) on their person while on patrol. Currently it’s only optional, he said.
Chief of Police Edwin Roessler said the department is “moving toward that goal,” and confirmed that every officer certified to use the weapon may carry one at their discretion.
There was little additional conversation on tasers from the supervisors.
Merni Fitzgerald, chair of the Ad Hoc commission communications subcommittee, spoke about the need for a community engagement team as a formal way to make sure there’s “back and forth” exchange with the public and the police department.
Roessler responded that his department has recently applied for a Department of Justice grant that would help fund such a team.
Also during the communications discussion over release of information following an officer-involved incident, Smith said she was concerned about language for the action item. Roessler has said he needs up to 10 days following the incident to conduct a thorough threat assessment for the officer and his or her family.
The way the item reads, Smith said, the supervisors would be able to overturn that action by the chief and force the release of an officer’s name sooner.
“No one’s saying the board would overturn that,” Chairman Sharon Bulova said. But, she said, “the board needs to be given latitude to have a discussion.”
Supervisor John Cook (R-Braddock), chairman of the Public Safety Committee, expanded on Bulova’s comment. “The public needs to know it’s our job to come out of closed session, get in front of a camera and say it was the chief’s decision and we’re backing up the chief,” Cook said. “The chief had a recommendation, we were briefed on it. It’s a public obligation.”
The next meeting of the Public Safety Committee is scheduled for July 19.
Annual police report highlights community engagement, department reform
By Angela Woolsey/Fairfax County Times
The Fairfax County Police Department has undergone some significant changes over the past couple of years, as evidenced by the FCPD Annual Report for 2015, which the department’s public affairs bureau released on May 3.
After receiving recommendations issued by an ad hoc commission established by the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors to review department practices, the FCPD adopted several new policies or initiatives aimed at improving relations with community members while emphasizing the importance of trust and transparency.
“The Fairfax County Police Department has engaged with the community to continually learn and re-engineer our policies and practices,” FCPD Chief Edwin Roessler wrote in the report. “In [calendar year] 2015, the Fairfax community and the men and women of the police department continued to achieve our vision of preventing and fighting crime, increasing a culture of safety by valuing the preservation of the sanctity of life for all, and keeping pace with urbanization.”
According to the report, crime was down slightly in 2015 from the previous year, decreasing from 38,561 to 38,306 crimes, a noticeably smaller drop than what the county saw between 2014 and 2013, when there were 41,704 crimes.
More than 25,000 of the incidents reported in 2015 were crimes against property, a category that includes arson, robbery, vandalism, and financial crimes like fraud, extortion and counterfeiting.
By comparison, there were 7,712 crimes against persons, which are calculated based on the number of victims and include assault, homicide and sexual offenses, and 5,388 crimes against society, which include drug, gambling, prostitution, pornography and weapons law offenses.
There were 13 homicides in Fairfax County in 2015, up from 10 in 2014, with six of those murders occurring in the Mount Vernon district, according to a more detailed FCPD statistical report for 2014 and 2015.
Three of the department’s 2015 homicide cases remain active, according to the annual report.
2015 saw a drop of approximately 25 percent in the number of victims of sex offenses from 2014. The most significant changes came in the Mount Vernon and Mason districts, where the number of victims dropped from 50 to 22 and 45 to 28, respectively, though the Sully district experienced an increase with its victim total rising from 12 to 25.
The number of crimes against property and society both stayed about the same from 2014 to 2015.
2015 also saw a decrease in the number of arrests, which have declined since 2013, despite a slight increase in calls for service.
However, one of the biggest focuses of the 2015 FCPD annual report is not crime, but rather, the department’s efforts to create what it calls a “culture of engagement.”
Concerns about the police department’s relationship with the community it serves cropped up following the 2013 shooting of Springfield resident John Geer by former Fairfax County police officer Adam Torres, who was fired from the department in August 2015 and pleaded guilty to manslaughter on Apr. 18.
Though Torres isn’t scheduled for a sentencing hearing until June 24, the county and police department have already worked to address the fallout from Geer’s shooting, which raised questions about the use of force and transparency regarding the release of information on officer-involved incidents.
The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors, led by Chairman Sharon Bulova, created a “communities of trust” committee in January 2015 to “advance collaboration, partnerships, and outreach between public safety agencies and the communities they serve.”
Composed of citizens, the communities of trust committee works with the FCPD, the Fairfax County Sheriff’s Office, and the Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Department, along with state and federal agencies, the Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS) system, and community and faith leaders.
The Board of Supervisors also formed an ad hoc commission to review FCPD practices on Mar. 3, 2015, and the commission presented 142 policy recommendations to the board on Oct. 20.
In addition to emphasizing the need for a department culture that values every citizen’s life, the commission recommended improved mental health and crisis intervention team (CIT) training as well as the establishment of a citizens’ review board and an independent audit position to provide oversight.
Though the Board of Supervisors is still in the process of reviewing many of the commission’s recommendations, the FCPD has implemented some of the suggested practices since the commission’s report came out.
Roessler said last year that the department has adopted the national decision-making model of policing, which teaches officers to assess risk, consider their options and develop a response strategy before taking action. The department has also revised its recruit training programs to focus on decision-making skills and mental health and crisis awareness before teaching weapons and marksmanship.
According to the FCPD 2015 annual report, community leader Mattie Palmore, an at-large commissioner on the Fairfax County Commission for Women, was responsible for mentoring recruits on “building trust and investing in the future of the communities” they will serve.
The department addressed the commission’s recommendations regarding mental health awareness and CIT training in part by developing the program Diversion First, which was originally spurred by the February 2015 death of inmate Natasha McKenna in a county jail.
Officially launched on Jan. 1, 2016, Diversion First allows police officers to bring low-risk offenders with mental illness or substance abuse issues to a treatment center instead of incarcerating them.
Roessler announced at a Feb. 11 press conference that the police department had diverted 103 people to the Merrifield Crisis Response Center in the first month of Diversion First.
The 2015 annual report shows that the FCPD launched 43 use-of-force investigations into incidents involving people suspected of having a mental health episode and received 2,838 calls for service involving people experiencing mental health issues that didn’t result in the use of force. It remains to be seen what kind of impact Diversion First will have on those numbers in the future.
The FCPD also spent 2015 heavily involved in the county’s efforts to combat a recent increase in the abuse of opioid-based prescription painkillers and heroin, participating in a regional Heroin Operations Team (HOT) along with several other agencies and jurisdictions in the area.
Fairfax County had 65 heroin overdoses and six heroin-related deaths in 2015, compared to 66 overdoses and 17 deaths in 2014, which rose from 41 overdoses and nine deaths in 2013. However, the FCPD annual report notes that these 2015 statistics are incomplete, since 39 cases are still pending with lab results that have yet to come in from Virginia’s state crime lab.
The annual report also covers community engagement efforts conducted by individual police districts as well as crime statistics for specific divisions, including animal control, the criminal investigations bureau, and the traffic division in the operations support bureau.
The report can be found in the “Inside FCPD” section on the FCPD’s website.