Fairfax County police propose body camera pilot program
· By Angela Woolsey/Fairfax County TimesTop of Form
Fairfax County took one step closer to implementing a long-awaited pilot program for body-worn cameras on Tuesday when Fairfax County Police Chief Edwin C. Roessler Jr. presented his department’s proposal for such a program to county supervisors at a public safety committee meeting.
If approved by the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors, the pilot program would provide a testing ground not only for officers and community members to learn how the cameras work, but also for Fairfax County Police Department (FCPD) policies governing their use.
According to Roessler’s presentation, the proposed 90-day pilot program would involve the distribution of cameras to two of the department’s eight district stations and cost an estimated $676,152 to implement, a figure that covers both equipment costs and the cost of hiring support staff for the program.
The annual expense of storing data collected by the cameras is projected to be around $124,000.
Roessler says that the police department is currently in the final stage of a procurement process for the cameras with possible vendors and contractors, so he could not provide specific details on the companies involved or the number of FCPD officers that will participate in the pilot program.
However, the police department was responsible for determining length of the pilot program and selecting the Mount Vernon and Mason District stations as the ones that would receive cameras.
“They provide the most diversity in the community and also the diversity of the calls for service in different environments, urban and a little bit of suburban,” Roessler said regarding why he chose those two stations.
This is not the first time that Fairfax County has contemplated using body-worn cameras, which have emerged as a possible way to improve law enforcement agencies’ relationship with the communities they serve by increasing transparency.
Roessler presented a proposal for using body-worn cameras to the board of supervisors’ public safety committee on June 9, 2015, according to meeting minutes on the Fairfax County government website.
That meeting included discussions on policy creation, cost analysis, the technology involved, and the possibility of a pilot project.
Sully District station commander Capt. Robert Blakley laid out a draft policy and procedure for the use of body-worn cameras in a memo to FCPD command staff dated May 17, 2015 and included as an attachment to Roessler’s June 9, 2015 presentation.
According to the memo, the FCPD was “in the process of testing and evaluating different body-worn camera (BWC) systems” at the time.
The draft policy was developed using feedback from community stakeholders as well as recommendations on best practices put forth in a 2014 report on implementing a body-worn camera program by the Police Executive Research Forum (PERF) and U.S. Department of Justice’s Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS).
However, the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors declined to take action, deciding instead “to wait on legislation working its way through the General Assembly,” according to an article in The Connection by Tim Peterson.
Supervisors directed county staff to keep the public safety committee “informed on all aspects of the body-worn camera issue,” according to the meeting minutes.
Roessler says that the market for body-worn cameras made them less feasible for Fairfax County at that time.
“There were only a few [vendors], and obviously, the cost was much higher back then for the equipment and the data storage,” the police chief said. “Since that time, the market has more competition, and the prices have drastically taken a nose dive.”
Demand for the FCPD to implement body cameras persisted, though.
A report published on Oct. 8, 2015 by an ad hoc police practices review commission included a mandate that Fairfax County police patrol officers wear body cameras to record all interactions with the public among its 202 recommendations.
The ad hoc commission was formed on Feb. 20, 2015 by Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Chairman Sharon Bulova in response to public frustration over the county’s handling of an investigation into the 2013 fatal shooting of Springfield resident John Geer by former FCPD Officer Adam Torres.
Roessler asked the county to initiate a request for proposals (RFP) during the public safety committee’s Dec. 13, 2016 meeting. The police department received 16 offers before the RFP period closed on Feb. 28, according to the police chief’s presentation.
Since then, in addition to negotiating with the potential vendors, the FCPD has been developing a new draft policy with guidelines for how officers should use the body cameras as well as how the footage will be used, accessed, and stored.
Led by FCPD Fair Oaks District Station Commander Capt. Chantel Cochrane, the department incorporated Virginia Department of Criminal Justice Services (DCJS) and the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) recommendations as well as feedback from community stakeholders, such as the Fairfax County NAACP, into the draft policy.
“This policy definitely balances privacy interests, civil liberty interests, and the safety of the officers,” said Cochrane, who previously provided an overview of the draft policy during the public safety committee’s June 13 meeting.
The FCPD general order laying out the draft policy can be found on the Fairfax County board committee meetings webpage, but Cochrane says that it would likely be tweaked and adapted throughout the pilot program.
To determine the effectiveness of both the pilot project and the draft policy, Roessler has brought in American University Department of Justice, Law and Criminology professors Richard R. Bennett and Brad Bartholomew.
American University has had a long-standing relationship with Fairfax County police, putting on trainings and other activities for the department, according to Bennett, who would be in charge of the pilot project evaluation.
Bennett, who worked as a patrolman and deputy sheriff in various jurisdictions before entering academia almost 40 years ago, plans to use an attitudinal survey to determine whether the body camera pilot is achieving its intended goals, which include reductions in the use of force by police officers and the number of community member complaints, as well as an increase in stakeholder and community satisfaction.
While the survey will be conducted using random-digit dialing, where participants are selected using randomly generated phone numbers, Bennett said they can over-sample certain demographics after Mount Vernon District Supervisor Dan Storck suggested that the survey should particularly focus on how minority community members are responding to the body camera program.
A report released by the FCPD in 2016 found that use-of-force incidents involve black citizens at a rate disproportionate to their overall population in Fairfax County. 41 percent of the incidents examined in the report involved subjects who identified as black, while only 8 percent of the county’s 1.1 million people are black.
Springfield District Supervisor Pat Herrity told Bennett and Bartholomew that the pilot project evaluation should also examine the impact of body cameras on police officers.
Multiple supervisors questioned whether 90 days would be a sufficient amount of time for researchers to accurately gauge the program’s effectiveness.
Bennett says that it is difficult to predict in advance how many incidents they will have to study, but Roessler noted that the pilot could potentially be expanded if necessary.
“Being a researcher, I always want more time, but you don’t always have the luxury of having the amount of time that you’d like,” Bennett said. “We’ll do the best evaluation that we can in the 90 days.”
According to Bennett, the pilot project evaluation and policy review could be completed within 15 days of the conclusion of the pilot program.
Braddock District Supervisor John Cook, who serves as chair of the public safety committee, set the Board of Supervisors’ Nov. 21 meeting as a tentative date for the board to vote on the proposed body-worn cameras pilot project.
If approved, the program would likely officially start sometime in February, since the FCPD needs about 100 days to install infrastructure for the technology and hire additional support staff, according to Roessler.
“We have 100 days prior to [the launch] where we need to train all of our officers,” Roessler said. “The equipment for the body-worn cameras is realistically the same as in-car video, so that’s why I’m comfortable we can get up and running rather quickly.”
Includes communications and body cameras.
From the McLean Connection
By Phillip Niedzielski-Eichner
Oct. 8 will be the second anniversary of the 2015 release of the Ad Hoc Police Practices Review Commission Final Report. The catalyst for the Ad Hoc Commission’s formation by the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors was the August 2013 shooting death of John Geer. The commission was charged with assessing the Police Department’s performance against national best practices.
The commission made more than 200 recommendations for transforming an excellent Police Department into one that is “best in class” and for strengthening the public’s trust and confidence in the department.
I served as commission member and as the chairman of Use of Force Subcommittee. I am also a member of a loosely configured Implementation Committee, a group of former commission members dedicated to helping to see that our recommendations are effectively implemented.
I commend both the Board of Supervisors (BOS) and Police Department for their progress implementing the commission’s recommendations. Significant reforms are underway that when fully realized will generate increased accountability and public confidence. Major reforms already in place include:
§ forming the Office of the Independent Police Auditor to determine the thoroughness, completeness, accuracy, objectivity and impartiality of investigations of death or serious injury cases.
§ convening a Civilian Review Panel to review civilian complaints regarding “abuse of authority” or “serious misconduct” by a police officer;
§ creating “Diversion First,” which offers alternatives to incarceration for people with mental illness or developmental disabilities; and
§ recrafting the Use of Force General Order to enshrine sanctity of human life as an organizing principle, with de-escalation as the strategy of first resort when confronted with a threat rather than the use of deadly force.
WHILE MUCH HAS BEEN accomplished, more is work is needed. For example, the commission advocated in strong terms for information-sharing reform to promote timeliness, completeness and transparency. In this regard, a revised Police Department Communication Policy is still in process.
The commission also called for all officers to be outfitted with body worn cameras, contingent on the enactment of laws, policies and procedures that protect individual privacy. These cameras are to complement the dashboard cameras now mounted in each Fairfax patrol vehicle.
While a potential aid to criminal prosecution, the body-worn camera’s equally important contribution is to foster greater transparency and the accountability of all parties during the interactions of the police with the public. As the American Civil Liberties Union noted in an October 2014 report, body-worn cameras “[have] the potential to be a win-win, helping protect the public against police misconduct, and at the same time helping protect police against false accusations of abuse.”
While the county leadership has committed to deploying this technology, its approach has been appropriately methodical. Key considerations are operational, privacy, data security and cost. For example, the supervisors have approved a pilot project that will deploy cameras in two of the county’s nine magisterial districts and the department is currently evaluating proposals from prospective suppliers.
THIS PILOT PROJECT needs to generate answers to following questions, among others: the county needs to establish when cameras will be running and how will the public know the cameras are on? When can biometric technology – such as facial recognition – be used? How will the video footage be secured from hackers? Who will have access to the data and under what procedures?
How will the massive amount of video data be stored and for how long? As the county understands and appreciates, the cost of deploying body-worn cameras is not in the cameras themselves, but the storage of the massive amount of data that is generated. As reported by the Center for Digital Government and Government Technology magazine, “When it comes to [body-worn cameras], data storage is the 800-pound gorilla in the room. Video … is a data hog.”
This reality generates cost-driven data-retention policy considerations. How long should non-evidentiary video be maintained? Some police departments say it should be 60-90 days, others say less or more. With regard to evidentiary data used in criminal prosecutions, the Virginia Commonwealth requires that evidence be stored for 99 years.
Finally, who controls access to the data? This question is becoming an increasingly significant issue nationally. Protecting evidence chain-of-custody for purposes of criminal prosecution is a necessary but not sufficient role to warrant the cost and the data protection risks inherent in the deployment of body-worn cameras. The real return-on-investment is the potential for influencing the behavior, through greater transparency and accountability, of all parties in a law-enforcement engagement.
The drive to use this technology is inexorable. A recent CATO Institute/YouGov poll found that 92 percent of the public supports the use of body-worn cameras. Implicit in this level of support are high public expectations that this technology will make a difference in law enforcement practices. Heightened expectations alone should give our policymakers pause, particularly when we know that no technology deployment is free of all mistakes and errors. The only thing worse in today’s context than not collecting the data during a controversial use-of-force incident, is for the public to learn that video data under the Police Department’s control is missing.
We should therefore challenge the assumption that video-camera data must be maintained under the sole access control of the Police Department. Options that should be given explicit consideration by the Board of Supervisors, Police Department and Commonwealth’s Attorney include assigning video data access control to the Independent Police Auditor or alternatively assigning this role to a board composed of the Police Chief, Independent Auditor and Commonwealth’s Attorney.
On this second anniversary of the Ad Hoc Policy Review Commission Report, the county and Police Department have many accomplishments to be proud of with regard to implementing the commission’s recommendations.
Quality-driven change is hard; some changes are especially difficult. Body-worn camera deployment is one that requires careful study and diligent attention to complex legal and operational details. I commend the county for taking the appropriate measured response to meeting this recommendation and, especially with regard the matter of access to video data, challenge the conventional wisdom that access control to such data must be under the sole purview of the Police Department.
· by BRIAN TROMPETER, Staff Writer
A first-ever report by the Fairfax County branch of the NAACP gave most county supervisors and two top public-safety officials mostly mediocre to poor marks in their handling of criminal-justice issues.
“It was an idea when I took over in January as a way to hold county leadership accountable and help members with their advocacy,” said Kofi Annan, the group’s president.
The NAACP’s “2016-2017 Criminal Justice County Report Card” graded all Board of Supervisors members, plus the county’s police chief and sheriff. None received an overall grade of “A.” Three got “B” grades, three “C-plus” marks, three “C” grades, one a “D-plus” and two a “D.” The report did not hew to partisan lines, as Supervisors Patrick Herrity (R-Springfield) and Kathy Smith (D-Sully) received the lowest marks.
Criminal-justice reform has been a hot topic in Fairfax County, following some fatal police shootings and sheriff’s deputies involvement in the deaths of an inmate at the county’s Adult Detention Center and a mentally ill man in Merrifield.
The report evaluated the policy positions county officials adopted over the last year, their on-the-record statements, votes during public meetings (if any) and interviews with each.
While county supervisors have hired an independent police auditor and set up a Civilian Review Panel to examine police use-of-force cases, the NAACP’s report, released Sept. 18, found there need to be more reforms and quicker.
Fairfax County must hire more minority police officers and sheriff’s deputies, equip officers with body-worn cameras and investigate the disproportionate number of use-of-force cases involving African-Americans, the report determined. African-Americans are only 8 percent of the county’s population, but were involved in 47 percent of police use-of-force cases, according to the report.
Fairfax County Police Chief Edwin Roessler Jr. seems genuinely to desire increased minority recruitment, but the department is not addressing a “trust deficit” that may be keeping those number low, Annan said.
The police force is 15-percent minority, the same as in 2013, and Latinos especially are underrepresented, the report stated.
“It’s the elephant in the room,” he said. “A lot of African-Americans don’t like or trust the police. If they don’t talk about that as a barrier to recruitment, they’ll continue to have these problems.”
Law-enforcement personnel should examine their biases, overt or latent, and endeavor not to let them affect their interactions with minorities, Annan said.
“It’s just a fact of life: We all do see race, subconsciously or not, and treat each other differently,” he said. “If you don’t knowledge stereotypes, you may end up with a force that has a negative effect on a community, even if it’s not intentional.”
Many studies show that people tend to see African-American youths as being older than they are, and give them aggressive descriptions, he added.
“It’s not unique to police,” Annan said. “It’s a product of the history of our country and their portrayal in the community.”
The Fairfax County NAACP plans to issue criminal-justice reports annually, as well as ones pertaining to affordable housing and education, Annan said.
While county officials have taken steps toward alleviating some of the ongoing issues, “we want to continue having them move in the right direction,” he said.
The Sun Gazette will list the NAACP’s grades of local officials, plus any received responses, in a separate article.
And once again I say; nationally required IQ test and self-insured law enforcement license for every cop in America.
And once again I say; nationally required IQ test and self-insured law enforcement license for every cop in America.
New Jersey police detective fathers child with 15-year-old, is charged with sexual assault of minor
The police officer received multiple honors for his work.
His numerous gun and drug arrests at one point earned him “Officer of the Week” in the Camden County Police Department.
But he also fathered a child with a 15-year-old girl, and now Camden County Police Department Det. Rafael Martinez Jr. is facing charges for sexually assaulting a minor, according to the county prosecutor.
Martinez, 32, reportedly admitted to being the father of the baby. The 15-year-old girl, identified only as E.L., told authorities that she and Martinez had a sexual relationship from September 2016 to August 2017, according to New Jersey newspapers.
The police officer was suspended after he was arrested on Sept. 12. He earns almost $66,000 a year, according to .
Martinez signed the baby’s birth certificate when the child was born in mid-August, the Courier Post said. An affidavit that is part of the criminal complaint against Martinez said the teenager told authorities that the police officer was “the father of her child and that they had sex on multiple occasions at his home.”
A court-ordered DNA test confirmed Martinez as the father, reports added.
By Dana Hedgpeth September 14 at 9:20 AM
A Fairfax County police officer pleaded no contest in an accident with a minivan that occurred as he was speeding in a cruiser without emergency equipment on.
Officials said the incident involving Officer Pshko Siteki, who has been on the force for two years, happened Feb. 18. Siteki was heading to a call for a disorderly conduct incident when his cruiser struck a minivan near Leesburg Pike and Patrick Henry Drive in the Seven Corners area.
On Thursday, Siteki made the no-contest plea in Fairfax County District Court and was fined $250 by a judge.
Siteki did not have the emergency equipment on his cruiser in use during the incident although he was driving 68 miles per hour in an area where the speed limit is 40 miles per hour, police said. The driver of the minivan, a 53-year-old man, and the officer were taken to a hospital. The minivan driver had extensive injuries, officials said.
Siteki had been served a summons for a misdemeanor of reckless driving.
There was an in-car video system in the officer’s cruiser but because of the damage from the crash police were unable to retrieve it.
In a statement when the incident happened, Fairfax County Police Chief Edwin C. Roessler Jr. said, “We take the safety of our officers and members of this community very seriously.”
Officials said they have placed Siteki on “restricted duty without police powers, pending the outcome of the ongoing administrative investigation.” Siteki had been on administrative leave following the crash.
Justin Jouvenal, The Washington Post
Glen Sylvester avoids elevators and the back seats of cars to fend off his claustrophobia, but as the police officers walked him toward the small jail cell at Baltimore-Washington International Airport in May 2016, he braced for the panic to grip his body.
Sylvester, 54, was already bewildered. He had no idea why he had been placed under arrest. Minutes earlier, the Maryland man had been squashed into an economy seat on a flight idling on the tarmac when two officers boarded.
Suddenly, he was handcuffed and being pushed through the airport in a wheelchair. The insurance agent, Army veteran and youth basketball coach said he kept blurting out: "You have the wrong person!"
Then he was facing the cell. As the door closed, Sylvester said he felt like a drowning man. His chest seized, and it seemed as though he was unable to get a breath no matter how hard he tried. He pressed his face between the bars, trying to gulp fresh air. A single thought went through his mind: What did I do?
The answer, according to a lawsuit Sylvester recently filed in Fairfax County, was nothing. The District Heights resident claims he was mistakenly arrested for a pair of thefts from a Fairfax City, Virginia, grocery store the year before.
The charges were eventually dropped, but Sylvester said the 12 days he endured in various jails were a nightmare for someone with claustrophobia. He said he lost 18 pounds while behind bars, and his wife said he still sleepwalks, checking the bedroom door for air as if he is still in a cell.
"It's baffling to this day. Why me?" Sylvester asks. "How did you pick me out of billions of people? I really don't understand that. It makes me emotional, to be honest."
Sylvester and his lawyer say they still don't know how police homed in on him as a suspect. The Fairfax County officer named as defendant in the lawsuit, Brian Geschke, did not respond to requests for comment, and a police spokeswoman declined to comment on the case, citing the pending litigation.
A spokesman for Fairfax County said Geschke believes the investigation was conducted properly.
"Officer Geschke denies the allegations in the complaint and will vigorously defend the case," the statement read.
False arrest is a rare but real problem that can have searing consequences, from job loss to the destruction of a reputation. Unlike the more high-profile issue of wrongful convictions, no one tracks exactly how many cases of false arrest occur across the country.
But each year, dozens file lawsuits claiming that eyewitness error, paperwork mix-ups, sloppy police work or even identity theft have led police to haul them to jail for crimes they didn't commit or for offenses that never happened. Most are eventually released after the error is discovered.
Sylvester's trouble began May 13, 2016, when he was traveling home from attending the funeral of an uncle in Grenada, a country in the Caribbean. After landing at BWI, the plane was held on the tarmac, and the officers removed Sylvester from the flight.
"It was incredibly embarrassing in the world that we are living in," Sylvester said. "It's like I'm a terrorist."
Sylvester said he spent three hours in the cell at BWI before he was removed to go before a magistrate. His panic attack finally lifted as he went outside. He recalls sucking in air as the tightness in his chest eased.
The respite was short-lived.
"You have four felony charges in the state of Virginia, and you are considered a fugitive for leaving the country," Sylvester recalled the magistrate telling him as she explained why he wouldn't get bail.
Sylvester said he was stunned - he hardly ever went to Virginia and had never been to the store he was accused of robbing.
As Sylvester would later learn, two men walked through the Fairfax City-area Wegmans about 6 p.m. Nov. 5 and Nov. 12, 2015, piling into their carts items including Veuve Clicquot champagne, moscato wine and roses. Then they simply walked out the door and made off with the goods.
Surveillance cameras captured the thefts, showing that they appeared to be carried out by middle-aged black men.
The losses totaled more than $1,250, meaning Sylvester was charged with felony grand larceny. Each of the four counts carried a prison sentence of up to 20 years if Sylvester were eventually convicted.
Sylvester claims he was coaching basketball at Kelly Miller Middle School in the District of Columbia at the times of the crimes. His story was bolstered by three witnesses interviewed by The Washington Post. His wife, an assistant coach and a parent of a player said they recalled seeing him at the school about 6 p.m. or a short time before and after on the days in question.
After the hearing before the magistrate, Sylvester was taken to a detention center in the Annapolis, Maryland, area to await extradition to Virginia.
His first stop was a large holding cell where he was placed with others under arrest. Sylvester said he was scared as the people discussed drug use and assaults they had carried out. He shrank into a corner, doing breathing exercises to try to keep his claustrophobia at bay.
Sylvester's life revolves around basketball. He has spent 13 years as the head basketball coach at Kelly Miller Middle and at the Seed School, also in D.C. He is also the president of the Bulls, a basketball and mentoring program for at-risk boys that has helped more than 20 participants get into college and earn degrees. Sylvester said four have landed in the NBA.
His own record is not without a blemish. While in college in North Carolina in the 1980s, Sylvester said, he did community service for stealing two Cabbage Patch dolls from a store. A check by The Post turned up no other similar offenses in the intervening years.
At the detention center, Sylvester was eventually allowed to call his best friend, who was supposed to meet him at the airport. Derrick Wilson alerted Sylvester's wife.
"It was unbelievable," Wilson said. "He couldn't believe he was in jail over something he didn't know about."
He was then issued a jail jumpsuit and transferred to his own cell at the detention center. He said he kept expecting authorities to realize their error and release him, but now it was sinking in he would be in the jail for a while.
Sylvester said he remembers the exact dimensions of his cell - 7 by 11 feet - because he paced it obsessively.
He pulled his mattress onto the floor next to a dirty toilet so he could sleep with his head on the cell door. He said doing so allowed him to feel the air coming through the food slot, which helped his claustrophobia.
"You talk about broken," Sylvester said. "You're broken at this point."
Eleven more days would drag by in the detention center. Sylvester missed his wedding anniversary on May 17. Finally, on May 25, Virginia authorities arrived to transfer Sylvester to Fairfax County, where he was granted bail.
Sylvester walked outside and plopped down on a curb.
"I remember just crying like crazy," he said.
In September 2016, a Fairfax County prosecutor decided to drop the charges against Sylvester after receiving the results of an analysis that showed Sylvester's cellphone accessing cell towers in the District of Columbia and Maryland at the time of the crimes, according to emails obtained by The Post.
The Wegmans loss-prevention officer, who originally reported the thefts to police, also cast doubt on whether police had arrested the right person after seeing him in court for a preliminary hearing.
"My impression was that he may not be the same person I saw in the videos of these incidents," she wrote in a sworn affidavit provided to Sylvester's lawyer.
Sylvester is claiming in the lawsuit that Geschke was grossly negligent for not obtaining the cellphone records and interviewing him before seeking arrest warrants against him. The county has argued in its response that Geschke's actions do not rise to the level of gross negligence and that the case should be dismissed. The response does not address the facts asserted by Sylvester.
The arrest has left Sylvester and his family shaken.
"It's so easy to get arrested and lost in the system," said his wife, Stacey Sylvester. "I don't want anyone else to have this terrifying feeling again. It hurts my heart. It does make me mistrust the justice system."
Idiots! They could have killed someone, they should have broken off the chase…this is just a cheap excuse to justify the use of Nazi license-plate reader (Which they can use on you too)
Chase for fugitive stretches 38 miles of I-66 through Fairfax, Prince William, Fauquier
Aug 22, 2017
A suspect in an attempted homicide is in custody after a high-speed chase on Interstate 66 through Fairfax, Prince William and Fauquier counties.
Robert David Sheets, of Quarryville, Pennsylvania, is accused of shooting a man Aug. 13 and then shooting and stabbing the victim the next day when he realized the man was still alive. The victim survived both attempts on his life.
Sheets is charged with two counts of attempted homicide in Pennsylvania, as well as charges related to the chase Sunday across Northern Virginia, according to a news release from Fairfax County police.
The chase began with a license-plate reader alerting officers that Sheets was connected to a 2007 Ford Edge heading west on I-66 Sunday morning. Fairfax police cruisers pulled in behind Sheets near the Fairfax County Parkway and attempted a traffic stop.
Sheets sped away, according to police, accelerating to more than 100 miles per hour down I-66. About 38 miles later, in Fauquier, Fairfax police were able to stop the SUV in the area of Route 17 and Route 50.
Concerns about Fairfax County police can be shared on these websites
By Michelle Basch | @MBaschWTOP
August 19, 2017 12:55 am
WASHINGTON — Two new websites make it easy to share a concern or complaint you might have about the Fairfax County Police Department.
The county has a new civilian review panel made up of nine residents, as well as an independent police auditor. Both can review completed police investigations.
Fairfax Co. police citizen complaint panel now ready to act
FAIRFAX COUNTY, VA NEWS
Ex-Fairfax Co. officer sentenced in shooting death to be released next week
FAIRFAX COUNTY, VA NEWS
The civilian review panel can look into cases involving accusations of officer misconduct or abuse of authority. The auditor can take a second look at in-custody death and police use-of-force investigations.
At new websites the county has set up for each, you can fill out complaint forms and email them. You can also opt to print out the forms and submit them in person or through the mail.
The independent police auditor and civilian review panel were established following the death of John Geer, who was shot and killed in the doorway of his Springfield home in 2013. County police Officer Adam Torres pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter in connection with the death.
By Antonio Olivo August 17 at 4:05 PM
The two Fairfax County civilian bodies created to monitor police department investigations are ready to begin reviewing allegations of improper use of force and other misconduct, county officials announced Thursday.
The Independent Police Auditor and a nine-member Civilian Review Panel were appointed in response to questions about how the county handled an investigation into the 2013 shooting of an unarmed man outside his home in Springfield.
The auditor will review cases in which someone is shot by a police officer, dies while in custody or is injured after an officer uses force.
The Civilian Review Panel will review investigations into alleged harassment by police, reckless endangerment and other cases of misconduct.
Complaints can be made by telephoning the independent auditor at 703-324-3459 or filling out a form at the Fairfax County website.
Virginia Supreme Court takes written arguments from civil rights groups against the use of license plate cameras.
Civil rights groups made their case to the Virginia Supreme Court, urging the justices last week to find that the police use of automated license plate readers (ALPR, also known as ANPR) violates state privacy laws. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), Electronic Freedom Foundation (EFF) and Rutherford Institute each filed petitions in their case against the Fairfax County Police Department that claimed the use of cameras to gather intelligence on motorists not suspected of any crime violated Virginia's Government Data Collection and Dissemination Practices Act.
Last year, a Fairfax County judge rejected the argument (view ruling), even though a 2013 state attorney general opinion agreed with the ACLU and EFF (view opinion). The groups insist that the law seeks to protect private information about drivers, and that the lower court judge was construing the term 'personal information' too narrowly.
"ALPR data clearly fits within the types of personal data of concern to the General Assembly because it allows the government to monitor patterns of movements associated with identified vehicles, and to easily link that data to 'personal activities' of specific Virginia residents using data readily available through intercommunicating databases," EFF attorney Matthew J. Erausquin wrote. "In the past few years, as it has become clear how easy it is to aggregate seemingly innocuous and isolated pieces of data from disparate sources to create a full and revealing picture of an individual, agencies and organizations that work on privacy issues have broadened their definition of personally identifying information."
The group cited the Federal Trade Commission's updated definition of personally identifiable information to include cases where the information can be "reasonably linked" to a particular person using various identifiers. For its part, the ACLU blasted the lower-court judge for dismissing the attorney general's opinion in a footnote.
"Nothing in the [judge's] letter opinion... explain or support a conclusion that the instant case 'differs from the situation reviewed by the attorney general,'" ACLU attorney Edward S. Rosenthal wrote. "Since no trial was held and no admissions of fact were made by [our client] to support such a conclusion, it is difficult to ascertain what the trial court based this remark upon."
Virginia law requires courts to give "due consideration" to the points made in a formal ruling of the attorney general.
"We're on the losing end of a technological revolution that has already taken hostage our computers, our phones, our finances, our entertainment, our shopping, our appliances, and now, it's focused its sights on our cars," Rutherford Institute president John W. Whitehead said in a statement. "By subjecting Americans to surveillance without their knowledge or compliance and then storing the data for later use, the government has erected the ultimate suspect society. In such an environment, there is no such thing as innocent until proven guilty."
County police officer has been charged with reckless driving after he hit a car, seriously injuring a man, while speeding 68 mph without his cruiser's lights or sirens on.
Officer Pshko Siteki was responding to a disorderly conduct call about 10:30 a.m. Feb. 18 when he crashed into a minivan turning from Leesburg Pike to Patrick Henry Drive in Falls Church, police said.
Siteki, who has been with the department for two years, was speeding 68 mph in a 40-mph zone but did not have his emergency equipment on, according to police.
Both he and the 53-year-old man driving the minivan were taken to a hospital. The civilian received extensive injuries and, five months later, is still recovering.
Siteki was served a summons on Tuesday and placed on paid leave pending a court appearance, Police Chief Edwin Roessler announced Tuesday.
"We take the safety of our officers and members of this community very seriously," Roessler said in a statement. "That is why an Internal Affairs investigation was quickly launched to determine the circumstances surrounding this incident."
The officer's police cruiser had a video system, but the video was destroyed in the crash.
Siteki is due in court in September.
By Max Smith
WASHINGTON — Fairfax County moved forward Tuesday with a new police civilian review panel that aims to ensure citizen complaints about officers are properly investigated.
The county’s board of supervisors approved bylaws for the nine-member panel that was appointed in February, and the panel can now begin full operations.
The bylaws limit the group to reviewing completed internal affairs investigations, and bar the group from hearing any testimony about an incident from additional witnesses beyond those interviewed by police, even during public meetings.
“The problem with that was that if witnesses could present their version of events, but then the officers involved could not, that that would be unfair to the officers,” Supervisor John Cook said.
A person filing a complaint could explain the basis of the complaint to the review panel, and any other witness would be able to tell the review panel why they believe they should be interviewed by police.
“Investigations would be conducted by the police department because they are the ones trained in doing the investigation, and those investigations would be reviewed by the panel,” Cook said.
The panel will have 90 days from the completion of an internal police investigation to hold a public meeting and issue its own final review of the investigation.
“The bottom line is that this panel does not do an investigation. This panel makes sure that an investigation has been accomplished fairly,” Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Chairman Sharon Bulova said.
The panel is responsible for reviewing public complaints about issues like abuse of authority or officer misconduct that either should be or have been investigated by the police department.
A separate, full-time independent auditor now handles investigations into police shootings and other use of force. Both were established based on recommendations from the Ad Hoc Police Practices Review Commission that was created to identify ways to increase accountability following an outcry over the 2013 shooting death of John Geer in Springfield and the lengthy legal fight over the release of information about the case.
Eventually, the officer who shot Geer pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter.
The bylaws for the panel are below. Note: supervisors made some additional minor editorial changes that are not reflected