The One Fairfax Policy
In November 2017, the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors and the Fairfax County School Board jointly adopted the One Fairfax Policy, which is a social and racial equity policy that provides a framework based on equity for all decision-making in the county, ranging from transportation and land use, to recreation and public safety. The goal of the policy is to ensure equitable access to opportunities and success regardless of an individual's race, gender, ability, or income. The OIPA is committed to upholding the values of the One Fairfax Policy and is actively finding ways to further promote One Fairfax through its work.
How the OIPA Promotes One Fairfax
The OIPA’s mission and work promote the One Fairfax policy specifically related to Focus Area 6 and embodies the themes of access, accountability, engagement, and reporting.
Focus Area 6 in the One Fairfax policy is directly related to the OIPA’s work as it specifies that public safety services, such as the police, should be “responsive to all residents so everyone feels safe to live, work, learn, and play in any neighborhood of Fairfax County.”
The OIPA builds trust between the community and the Fairfax County Police Department (FCPD) by monitoring and reviewing internal FCPD investigations into officer involved shootings, in-custody deaths, and use of force incidents that result in death or serious injury. The OIPA also monitors and reviews FCPD investigations into other use of force incidents when a complaint is made. Through its review, the OIPA provides an independent assessment of the FCPD’s investigation to determine whether the investigation is accurate, complete, thorough, objective, and impartial. The OIPA can assure the complainant and the public that the FCPD’s investigation into the complaint was conducted properly, or it can request that the FCPD conduct additional investigation. The OIPA can also propose recommendations to FCPD policy, training, and procedure. As an oversight entity for the FCPD, the OIPA helps to build the community’s trust and confidence in the FCPD, thereby promoting the One Fairfax policy as encompassed by Focus Area 6.
The OIPA is a public office that serves as an independent intake venue for complaints against FCPD officers. The OIPA provides a safe and welcoming environment for individuals to submit complaints who may otherwise feel uncomfortable submitting a complaint directly to the FCPD. The OIPA informs the community about its role in oversight through public presentations and by distributing informational brochures throughout the community. The brochures provide information about the OIPA and the complaint process, and they include a complaint form. The brochures are available in English, Spanish, Korean, and Vietnamese to allow members of the community, regardless of native language, the ability to understand the OIPA’s role in oversight of the FCPD. The OIPA publishes public reports for each incident reviewed to inform the community about the incident, the results of the FCPD’s investigation, and the OIPA’s finding as to whether the investigation was conducted in a complete, thorough, accurate, impartial, and objective manner. Prior to the establishment of the OIPA, the community did not have access to this type of information.
The OIPA holds the FCPD accountable by assessing whether investigations into use of force, in-custody deaths, and officer involved shootings are accurate, complete, thorough, objective, and impartial. If the OIPA finds that an FCPD investigation does not meet these standards, it can recommend additional investigation into the matter. Upon completing a review of an FCPD investigation, the OIPA issues a public report and makes public recommendations regarding FCPD policy, training, and practices. The OIPA tracks the FCPD’s response to recommendations and publishes this information on the OIPA website to keep the community informed about FCPD implementation.
The OIPA regularly interacts with complainants and the community. The OIPA engages with individuals who submit public complaints so that they understand each step of the complaint process and the status of their complaint. The OIPA meets with the Fairfax community to inform them of its mission and service through outreach events with community groups, faith-based organizations, civic associations, and other stakeholder groups. To request an outreach meeting for your organization in order to learn more about the Independent Police Auditor and civilian oversight in Fairfax County, please email IPAPoliceAuditor@fairfaxcounty.gov.
In addition to publishing public reports detailing the findings from individual incident reviews, the OIPA also reviews use of force data and summarizes the situational factors present in force incidents broken down by race. These public reports provide the community with more detailed analysis of use of force incidents—specifically as to the race of the individuals involved in use of force incidents-- than was previously available. In May 2019, the Board of Supervisors directed the OIPA to conduct a search for and to select a research partner to conduct a comprehensive study of use of force data to identify potential reasons and causes for the disparity in the number of use of force incidents by subject race. The OIPA selected the University of Texas San Antonio (UTSA) to complete the study. The results of the study and accompanying recommendations will be presented to the Board of Supervisors in 2021. These efforts exemplify the OIPA’s commitment to the One Fairfax Policy as they help the public to identify and better understand racial disparities in use of force incidents. The results and recommendations from these data reviews provide further insight into the causes of racial disparities and promote equitable planning and decision-making related to policing in Fairfax County.