Fairfax County’s top official, local police chiefs and elected officials for the City of Falls Church are stressing the importance of equity and justice as nationwide protests over the death of George Floyd continue.
A viral video captured Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin’s knee on Floyd’s neck for several minutes. Chauvin was charged with third-degree murder and manslaughter.
In a newsletter to constituents, Jeff McKay, the chairman of the Board of Supervisors, stressed the county’s focus on equity with the One Fairfax policy, saying that he will soon announce ” a blueprint to double down on our commitments.”
“Angry and Disgusted”
McKay also addressed the recent protests in D.C. after reports on Monday of police using tear gas and rubber bullets to dispel protesters from the area around a church where President Donald Trump then posed for a photo.
“I’m angry and disgusted that today, for the third time in as many days, we saw peaceful protestors tear-gassed and shot with pellet guns as they chanted for peace and change,” McKay said.
McKay’s full statement:
To the Fairfax County Community,
Over the weekend, millions marched the streets across the United States mourning the death of George Floyd and rightfully protesting the injustices and systemic racism experienced by generations of African American men and women in this country.
I’m angry and disgusted that today, for the third time in as many days, we saw peaceful protestors tear gassed and shot with pellet guns as they chanted for peace and change. Simultaneously, COVID-19 continues to showcase and exacerbate the disparities that exist in our most vulnerable communities.
Now more than ever, we know it is the role of our local government to achieve true structural change in our communities. We in Fairfax County must honestly ask ourselves, what actions are we taking?; what voices are we lifting up?; and for me as your Chairman, are our policies affecting systemic change in our community?
We are lucky to live in Fairfax County. Our Government has a team of employees who dedicate themselves to making us better every day. Our residents are diverse and challenge us to do more. Each member of the Board of Supervisors believes that we can always improve.
It is our commitment to our diversity that created our One Fairfax policy, which makes equity a requirement and recognizes that disparity is a fact. The Board of Supervisors and School Board adopted it to ensure that it is intentionally applied to all the work we do – not just reflected on when we are in crisis. In the coming days, I will announce a blueprint to double down on our commitments.
We have work to be done. In the days, weeks, and months ahead of us, we will continue to listen, encourage healthy dialogues, and have the courage to fight for what’s right.
“Undo Culture of Racism”
Falls Church’s City Council and City Manager Wyatt Shields released a joint statement, saying that they “re-affirm our values of fairness and equal opportunity for all.”
“Mr. Floyd’s death lays bare once again, a long troubling truth that minorities in this country disproportionately experience violent and fatal encounters with police,” the statement said. “It is a truth we all must confront.”
They said they are committed to working to “undo the culture of racism,” along with promoting justice and peace. The statement did not elaborate on how the city officials plan to tackle it.
Local Law Enforcement Weigh In
Local law enforcement heads have recently talked about the role communities play in shaping police departments.
A letter to the community from Falls Church Police Chief Mary Gavin stressed that community trust is the most “sacred” part of police work.
Gavin then shared how the city’s police department strives to reinforce equality: taking the words “citizen” and “resident” out of policies, focusing on diverse hiring and striving for inclusiveness with their practices. She also called for a structural change that goes beyond firing “bad actors.”
“When public servants fail us by abusing the authority invested in them by the community they have sworn to protect and serve, it destroys trust and partnerships, the fabric of our community,” Gavin said.
On Friday, Fairfax County Police Department Police Chief Edwin Roessler Jr. talked about the police department’s community policing efforts and addressed eroding trust in law enforcement.
“We shall have faith the local and federal justice systems will navigate toward justice for the Floyd family, the communities impacted, and our entire nation,” he said. “However, we must be mindful there is a healing process where righteous anger needs to be constructively exercised through the right to free speech.”
Photo by LOGAN WEAVER on Unsplash