On Tuesday, the Board of Supervisors established a Police Civilian Review Panel, which will serve as another way for residents to submit complaints concerning allegations of abuse of authority or misconduct by a Fairfax County police officer.
“Police officers put themselves on the line every day to protect and serve the residents of Fairfax County, and I respect and applaud the difficult work they do,” said Board of Supervisors Chairman Sharon Bulova. “The establishment of a Civilian Review Panel is a positive step forward to further promote transparency and openness in community policing.”
The panel will have many responsibilities and roles (and full details will be outlined in the coming weeks), but as a sampling, here are three ways the panel will work to enhance trust between our community and police:
The Civilian Review Panel will have the authority to request and review completed Police Department internal administrative investigations regarding a civilian complaint against an officer. The panel may hold public meetings to review police administrative investigations and walk through with members of the community how the investigation was conducted, including findings of fact, evidence collected and witness statements.
The panel may choose to review the following types of cases:
- The use of abusive, racial, ethnic or sexual language;
- Harassment or discrimination based on race, color, sex, religion, national origin, marital status, age, familial status, or disability;
- The reckless endangerment of a detainee or person in custody;
- Serious violations of Fairfax County or police procedures.
For potentially criminal use of force or police-involved shootings, an investigation would likely be led by the Commonwealth Attorney and would be monitored by the newly-established police auditor.
The Civilian Review Panel will consist of nine members appointed by the Board of Supervisors. Panel members will serve three-year terms with a two-term limit. All panel members will be Fairfax County residents and will have some expertise and experience relevant to the panel’s responsibilities. The Board of Supervisors may reach out to businesses, nonprofit groups or other local organizations to nominate potential candidates to serve on the panel.
“Today’s action by the Board of Supervisors to move forward with establishing a Civilian Review Panel is an additional step toward transparency to increase the public’s trust and confidence in its great police department,” said Police Chief Edwin Roessler. “This move highlights true cooperation between the government and the citizens it serves. These policies and procedures were co-produced through robust engagement with community members, political leaders, and the brave men and women of the Fairfax County Police Department. This progressive step is an example for the law enforcement profession as a whole to follow as it serves to restore trust and meets one of the pillars of the President’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing. We look forward to continued engagement with our community on all that we do.”
The Civilian Review Panel was one key recommendation of the Ad Hoc Police Commission, which delivered 202 recommendations in November 2015.
In addition to establishing the Civilian Review Panel and Office of Police Auditor, many other recommendations from the Ad Hoc Police Commission have been implemented by FCPD and the Board of Supervisors so far, including:
- Establishing Diversion First, which has resulted in over 300 diversions from potential criminal arrest to treatment since January 1, 2016.
- Re-engineering how our police are trained with a focus on de-escalation and the sanctity of life.
- Reorganizing the public affairs team and hiring a full-time civilian director.
- Establishing a policy to release the names of officers involved in critical incidents within 10 days and providing updates on these incidents at least every 30 days.
- Collecting and publishing key data on police interactions including uses of force and officer-involved shootings.