Fairfax County Officials Exploring Police Reform Efforts

Earlier this week, the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors approved proposals to move forward several police reform efforts.

On Tuesday, the board approved a board matter by Lee District Supervisor Rodney Lusk and Hunter Mill District Supervisor Walter Alcorn that pushes the county to dispatch unarmed medical, mental health and human services workers for incidents involving mental and behavioral health issues. 

County staff will review the local dispatch and response system in order to “enhance our Diversion First strategies by implementing systems for the deployment of trained unarmed medical, human services, and mental health professionals in instances where mental and behavioral health are the principal reason for the call.”

The new system would model Crisis Assistance Helping Out On The Streets (CAHOOTS), an approach adopted in Eugene, Oregon since 1989. The county will determine if a similar approach is suitable for Fairfax County based on potential initial costs, long-term budget savings, overall feasibility, and the expected impact on service.

The county’s Public Safety Committee will review the county’s findings and offer a recommendation to the Board of Supervisors by Oct. 1.

Roughly 20% of calls that FCPD officers respond to are primarily related to mental and behavioral health crises. Currently, only 40 percent of county officers are trained in crisis intervention.

In a board matter, Lusk noted that FCPD should “endeavor to be the smartest” and not only the “safest” jurisdiction of its size in the nation.

Body camera footage of a white Fairfax County firing a stun gun at a Black man in Gum Springs led Lusk and Alcorn to push for the board matter. Officer Tyler Timberlake shot La Monta Gladney with a stun gun and used his knee to hold him down. Gladney was speaking incoherently prior to the use of force incident as officers persuaded him to go to a detox center.

The board also approved a board matter from Braddock District Supervisor James Walkinshaw and Chairman Jeff McKay that encourages the General Assembly to consider police reform efforts.

The General Assembly tentatively plans to meet in August for a special session to talk about the state budget.

Walkinshaw and McKay’s board matter asks that Virginia legislators look into five areas:

  • adequate funding for courts, public defenders and commonwealth’s attorneys
  • create a statewide database for officer misconduct
  • improve data transparency, especially for use of force reports
  • funding for strong civilian review panels
  • funding process for body-worn cameras

“While we do thorough background checks on our police hires in Fairfax County, a statewide standard for data collection could provide benefits for all police departments as they make hiring decisions,” the board matter says.

The board matter notes that while it’s Police Civilian Review Panel helps with accountability, the state should consider funding the panels so that other localities can create their own ones.

The board approved sending the list to Fairfax County’s General Assembly delegation.

Catherine Douglas Moran contributed reporting

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