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Public Safety Archived Discussion Room

Fairfax County, Virginia

Public Safety

Fairfax County Acting Police Chief James A. Morris answers your questions on holiday safety, school security and ongoing public safety issues of interest to the community Friday, Dec. 21 at 12:30 p.m.

Jim Morris : Welcome, thank you for joining me today for a discussion on public safety issues.

World Citizen : Welcome, acting Chief. I must say I've never heard of you before. What have been your prior positions on the force?

Jim Morris : I’ve been a Fairfax County police officer for about 23 years and in that time, I’ve never lost my enthusiasm for law enforcement or my pride in our department.
     You asked about my prior positions – as a new graduate of the police academy, I helped keep the streets in the Reston Police District safe.  I was a patrol sergeant in the McLean District Station; a shift supervisor at the 9-1-1 communications center; and the police department liaison with county schools. 
     Once I made captain, I served as commander of the Franconia District Station, followed by the Internal Affairs Bureau.  My first assignment as a deputy chief was to command the Administration Bureau, which includes everything from payroll and finance to the academy and IT.  I had been deputy chief of investigations and operation support since last March and was appointed acting chief in October.
     Regardless of my rank or my assignment, I’m thankful for the opportunity to learn from, and eventually lead, some of the most experienced and knowledgeable men and women in law enforcement.

Valerie : What are the barriers to catching the Springield grabber? I have not taken my 17 month old out for a walk in months due to our fear of this man. What is the police department doing to keep us safe?

Jim Morris : This has been a really troubling case for anyone living or working in the area the suspect targets, and for our department.  We want to get this guy off the streets and behind bars, but that’s a lot easier said than done. 
     He appears to know the affected communities very well and to be very comfortable moving around in them. He strikes very suddenly and quickly and makes his escape in the opposite direction equally as fast.  We’ve been very close to catching him at least once, but his familiarity with his surroundings gave him enough of an edge to escape.
     I can’t go into specific tactics, tools, or crime analysis we’re using to catch him and to keep you safe, but we’re confident he won’t be able to avoid capture much longer.
     And to the young mother of a 17-month-old who says she’s so fearful of being victimized that she’s stopped taking her child for walks out in the fresh air:  Please don’t let fear paralyze you or rule your actions.  Ask someone to walk with you and your child.  Stay vigilant while outside.  And if you see something that might help police identify and arrest this man, tell us immediately.

Anonymous User : With the propsed cuts to benefits and stagnant wages how do you plan to make the position of police officer attractive in Fairfax County and be able to continue to hire the most qualified people for the position?

Jim Morris : We compare our salary and benefits on a regular basis with other jurisdictions.  That comparison currently shows that we are competitive. The entire region is suffering from the same economic difficulties, but as things improve we will continue to benchmark our pay and benefit package with those around us and request adjustments as needed.

Lawyer : Why is there now reluctance on the police department responding to accidents to place blame on one of the parties involved? As a result, I've had a huge increase in the number of clients requiring legal services attempting to receive compensation for someone else’s negligence not to mention the added burden on our legal system. Insurance companies have figured this out and are responding by shirking their obligations. What's your solution?

Jim Morris : I am not aware of reluctance on the part of officers to hold someone at fault in an accident.  Our objective is to fully investigate the accident and complete the required accident report which documents drivers’ actions.  Officers do have the discretion to write a traffic summons or not, and that depends on the individual circumstances.  We have not had any type of policy change that would have changed our practices.

Whitney : Hello Chief Morris. I am always glad to see the patrols out. Will you have more officers on the road to catch drunk drivers this holiday season?

Jim Morris : We absolutely will have additional enforcement efforts during the holiday season.  We will have DUI patrols and checkpoints throughout Fairfax County.   

Brenda : Hi and thank you for hosting this discussion....I am the parent of a 3 yo who attends pre-school in Annandale. Three-fold question: Will there be increased police patrolling around the perimeder of schools to check for suspisious people ? Are there funds to do that? If so when would it begin ?

Jim Morris : While there was no additional staffing or funding officers, supervisors, and commanders have combined to increase police presence at schools all across the county since the school shooting in Connecticut.  That level of staffing is almost impossible for a department our size to continue indefinitely, but returning to normal for police doesn’t mean our schools are suddenly dangerous.  
      I’ll repeat an earlier response:  If you see something or someone suspicious in your neighborhood, around a school, loitering near businesses, anywhere they don’t belong, report it to police.

Anonymous User : Chief Rohrer started a new policy of identifying officers involved in police shootings. Will you continue that policy?

Jim Morris : Yes,  that policy will continue while I am Acting Chief.  The decision made by Chief Rohrer was after discussion with his senior staff, who for the most part are all still in place.

Anonymous User : What changes to mental health laws are needed to help prevent mass shootings like those we have seen across the country? What are the standards for someone to be institutionalized?

Jim Morris : I don’t think pointing at one or two changes is really going to be the answer.  We need to look at the whole issue and seek ways together with the mental health community, law enforcement, schools and the community to find answers that can prevent these tragic events.

Anonymous User : Chief, do you tweet?

Jim Morris : No, I do not tweet, but FCPD PIO does, you can follow us at @fairfaxpolice

Central Fairfax family : Acting Chief Morris, your department does an outstanding job supporting my neighborhood. Both you and your officers are to be commended for the professionalism and care they consistently demonstrate whenever we have had contact with them. The district commander often attends our civic association meetings and officers have provided countless presentations over the years on a wide range of topics. Can we expect this same level of service with you acting as Chief? What are your priorities for the community?

Jim Morris : Yes, you can expect the same level of service.  I feel the interaction between each district station and the community is vital to providing good police service.  We are blessed with outstanding community support across the county, so one of my main priorities is to continue nourishing that relationship at all levels of the department.

Bob : I would just like to say I think Fairfax County has one of the best forces in the country. I have never met an Officer I did not like.

Jim Morris : Thank you very much, I appreciate the kind words.

Concerned parent : Hello Chief - What is your view of the proposal to arm teachers and staff in our schools?

Jim Morris : I'm following the school safety discussions that are just beginning on the federal and state levels very, very closely, and I urge everyone to do the same.  I have kids too, so I know both personally and professionally how critical it is for our children to be safe in their schools.  I think it’s really important to look at all the proposals.

Anonymous User : I am a Springfield resident and I am surprised at the lack of flyers in businesses regarding the serial fondler. There is a very busy laundry mat in Springfield where probably 95-98% of the customers are Hispanic. It seems to me if you are looking for this person in the Springfield area it would make sense to post flyers in the laundry mat where the residents of the area can see what this person looks like. Has the Police Dept. given this any thought?

Jim Morris : That’s discouraging to hear, because I assure you, we’ve plastered businesses in the affected area with flyers and posters in both English and Spanish.  We’ve met with the media to answer questions and have conducted interviews in Spanish for Spanish-language media. 
 I appreciate you bringing your concern up to me.

Anonymous User : As a Fairfax County Auxiliary Police Officer for many years, I am proud to serve the community. I do however feel vulnerable without a handgun. Is the department considering changing the policy to allow APOs to be armed with a handgun?

Jim Morris : I will gladly meet with the Auxiliary Officers and continue the conversation.

Mike : Are there any particular initiatives you want to focus on as acting chief and potentially as permanent chief, if that is how you proceed?

Jim Morris : My number one goal is to continue to enhance our relationship with the community.  We have had great success solving some serious cases recently with the outstanding help of our engaged communities.  

Jake : What are somethings you've done to reach out to private schools in the county over the last few days -- particularly Catholic schools?

Jim Morris : Private schools received the same increased police presence earlier this week as all Fairfax County  Public Schools.  We are also reaching out to them to provide threat assessment training and involving them in table top exercises to practice their crisis plans. 

cj : can you patrol interstate 495 and i-395 we need it

Jim Morris : In conjunction with the Virgnia State Police we do patrol the interstate system.

Ed : When does Fairfax expect to name a permanent chief?

Jim Morris : Early next year Fairfax County will begin a process to select a Police Chief.  That entire process usually takes several months to complete.

Anonymous User : Hello Chief, I live in the Lorton in the Laural Hill community. About 6-8 months ago, there were a 10-20 of car stolen within our community in a span of two months. Any updates of who was stealing the cars? Thanks you and Happy Holidays!!

Jim Morris : For the most up to date information I would encourage you to contact the West Springfield District Station at 703-644-7377.   

Jim Morris : Thank you for joining me today, sorry I couldnt get to all the questions.  Please have a safe and happy holiday season.