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Falls Church City Launches Survey on Community’s Experience with Police

The City of Falls Church’s Use of Force Review Committee has created a survey to gauge public perception of and experiences with the city’s police department and sheriff’s office. The survey will be open until Friday, Dec. 4 at 5 p.m.

According to a press release from the city, the survey aims to provide anecdotes to help the UFR Committee inform their work and provide recommendations to the City Council based on responses. 

The survey results will be available on the UFR Committee’s website once evaluated.

The Falls Church City Council established the UFR Committee in June amid nationwide protests of police brutality prompted by George Floyd’s murder at the hands of police in Minneapolis, Minn.

The committee is part of the city council’s commitment to the Reimagining Policing Pledge, which urges localities to review use-of-force policies, engage the community, report findings to the community, reform the use of force policies, and seek community feedback. 

The committee is made up of seven community members, five City employees, and one Falls Church City Public Schools employee. 

The National Institute of Justice says the use of force by law enforcement officers becomes necessary and is permitted under specific circumstances, such as in self-defense or in defense of another individual or group. 

However, there is no universal definition of force. For instance, the release states that the International Association of Chiefs of Police has defined force as “the amount of effort required by police to compel compliance by an unwilling subject.”

A “National Consensus Policy and Discussion Paper on Use of Force” that 11 different law enforcement leadership and labor organizations, including the IACP, published in 2017 and updated this year states:

Officers shall use only the force that is objectively reasonable to effectively bring an incident under control, while protecting the safety of the officer and others. Officers shall use force only when no reasonably effective alternative appears to exist and shall use only the level of force which a reasonably prudent officer would use under the same or similar circumstances.

The Falls Church City Police Department’s use-of-force policy says “force may be used to the extent reasonably necessary in light of the circumstances confronting the officer and deadly force shall not be employed except as a last resort in any situation in which such force is justified.”

The Fairfax County Police Department defines force as a “physical strike or instrumental contact with an individual, or any significant physical contact that restricts an individual’s movement,” excluding the act of escorting or handcuffing a person who is showing little or no resistance.

Under General Order 540, the FCPD says that force should only be used “to the extent it is objectively reasonable to defend oneself or another, to control an individual during an investigative or mental detention, or to lawfully effect an arrest.”

Falls Church City police are responsible for investigating crimes and public safety-related calls, while the City of Falls Church Sheriff’s Office handles court security, prisoner transport, and civil and criminal processes, such as evictions and seizures. Deputies also assist with traffic enforcement, emergency response, and security for city events like parades and festivals.

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