Sun Gazette editorial: Supervisors’ hearing on police reforms uninspiring
Perhaps we’ve just become jaded after years of empty promises of holding to account the leadership of the Fairfax County Police Department.
It is through those somewhat skewed lenses that we listened to members of the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors take a big-picture look at the more than 200 recommendations that came out of the Ad-Hoc Police Practices Review Commission, formed last year after Fairfax officials were (rightly) pilloried for their reaction to the shooting of unarmed Kingstowne resident John Geer in 2013.
Some of the recommendations can be implemented immediately, others are more aspirational, and some no doubt are unworkable. But we were struck, during the June 21 Board of Supervisors meeting, that Fairfax County Police Chief Edwin Roessler Jr. seemed to fall back, on several occasions, on the issue of cost.
He worried, for instance, about the price tag of equipping all patrol officers with tasers, which can be an effective, non-lethal alternative to guns. He also voiced concern about the cost of body cameras.
Memo to Roessler: Let the Board of Supervisors worry about coming up with the cash. Wringing your hands over financial issues sends a signal that you’re less than gung-ho over implementing reforms. The image problem of the county police is not improved by such behavior.
Individual members of the Board of Supervisors, too, came off poorly at the June 21 meeting. Several – not all, but some – seemed to be attempting to settle old political scores and compete in games of “gotcha” rather than taking the issue of improvements to policing with the seriousness it deserves.
Fairfax County aspires to be a leader in local governance, and in some ways, it is.
The systemic concerns about policing, which appear as much a top-down problem as bottom-up, are a blot that is holding the county’s aspirations back.