Newsletter

The Fairfax County Police Department’s newly appointed commander for the McLean District Station wants your help.

McLean District Station Commander Captain Wilson Lee and Assistant Commander Lieutenant Scott Cowell joined the McLean Citizens Association’s Board of Directors meeting on Wednesday (Nov. 3) to discuss their priorities for the station.

Lee cited taking care of the wellbeing and health of the station’s officers as his primary priority, followed by providing proper education and being proactive in preventing crime.

“If we don’t take care of our officers, we can’t really carry forward with the mission,” Lee said.

The station’s goals also include maintaining a strong relationship with the community in its purview and ensuring a high level of public engagement, he added.

“The police can’t do it by ourselves,” Lee said. “…As much as I love having our police officers everywhere we go, it’s not viable and just not possible. You guys are really our eyes and ears, and can help us tremendously in continuing to make Fairfax County safe.”

The MCA board also asked Lee about the impact of COVID-19 and the police department’s reported staffing shortages.

Starting tomorrow (Saturday), district stations will move some officers from specialty groups, such as the selective enforcement team or neighborhood patrol bike teams, to help fill patrol staffing needs, according to Lee.

He described the FCPD’s current vacancy levels of around 140 officers as “not usual” and “rather high.” However, Lee stated the McLean District Station has enough staff members to move around and “not really” take away from its specialized teams.

Most officers are vaccinated against COVID-19, and those that aren’t are getting tested regularly, according to Lee. He surmised the greatest impact of the pandemic was felt in early 2020 when the department was trying to minimize contact to avoid infections among officers.

When asked about priorities for the county’s upcoming fiscal year 2023 budget, Lee said the FCPD would like to see an increase in compensation to become more competitive in recruiting and retaining employees, echoing what officials told the Board of Supervisors last week.

Police and Fire Chief to Speak at Upcoming Forum

MCA will get a more countywide perspective on local public safety activities later this month with a forum featuring Fire and Rescue Chief John Butler and Police Chief Kevin Davis, who is speaking to the community group for the first time since taking office in May.

According to a notice from MCA, Butler and Davis will discuss their priorities, challenges, new initiatives, employee morale, fire and crime prevention, and how their departments have been affected by the growth of the Tysons area.

Davis will also talk about the FCPD’s School Resource Officer program. Neighboring Arlington County and the City of Alexandria removed SROs from schools earlier this year, though the latter reinstated the program after seeing several violent incidents to start the school year.

Some racial justice advocates have called on Fairfax County to end the use of SROs, but their efforts haven’t gained the same momentum so far.

The public safety forum will be held at 7 p.m. on Nov. 17. Advance registration is required to obtain the Zoom link, though the event will also stream live on MCA’s Facebook page.

Questions for Davis and Butler can be sent to [email protected]

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Morning Notes

McLean District Leads String of Vehicle Thefts — Fairfax County police have been investigating a series of stolen vehicle reports since early June. The incidents usually take place overnight and involve the suspects entering unlocked vehicles with the keys inside. The majority of thefts have occurred in the McLean District, which has 15 cases. [FCPD]

Tysons Boulevard Closure Delayed — Plans to close a section of Tysons Boulevard’s northbound lane for bicyclists and pedestrians have been postponed “due to a small delay in installation.” The temporary closure was scheduled to begin today (Tuesday) but will instead start next Wednesday (June 14). [Fairfax County Department of Transportation]

I-495 Ramps in Idylwood to Close Overnight — “The ramps from northbound I-495 to I-66 East and I-66 West are scheduled to be closed nightly Tuesday, July 6, through Thursday, July 8, from 11 p.m. to 5 a.m., and Friday night, July 9, from midnight to 4 a.m. for paving and implementation of a traffic shift…The I-66/I-495 Interchange is being rebuilt as part of the Transform 66 Outside the Beltway Project.” [VDOT]

Nearby: Tornado Touched Down in Arlington — The National Weather Service confirmed on Friday (July 2) that a tornado touched down during the thunderstorm that passed through the D.C. area the previous day. The twister charted a 4.4-mile path from northern Arlington to the National Mall and brought winds that reached 90 miles per hour. [ARLNow]

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McLean District police officers are now equipped with body-worn cameras after the Fairfax County Police Department recently rolled out the second phase of its program.

The FCPD announced yesterday (Monday) that it finished deploying body cameras to its McLean and Franconia District Stations last week, adding 218 trained and equipped camera operators to the county’s police force.

Dranesville District Supervisor John Foust welcomed the news of the program expansion in a statement to Tysons Reporter.

“I am pleased with the progress the Police Department is making toward full implementation,” Foust said. “While body worn cameras require a substantial initial investment and recurring cost, the cost is more than justified by the transparency and accountability the cameras provide.”

There are 132 sworn officers and 28 civilian staff members at the McLean District Station, which covers Merrifield, Dunn Loring, Falls Church, McLean, Tysons, and Great Falls. The Franconia District Station has approximately 140 officers and 30 civilians whose coverage area includes Annandale, Springfield, and Lorton.

The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors approved the creation of a body camera program for the entire police department in September 2019 after introducing the technology with a pilot program in 2018.

Expected to take three years for full implementation, the program’s first year saw cameras distributed to the Reston, Mason, and Mount Vernon District stations, where all officers have been trained and utilizing the cameras since the spring of 2020. Those stations had also been included in the original pilot.

Budget constraints resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic led the Board of Supervisors to initially delay funding for the body camera program’s second phase, which was previously supposed to include 338 cameras for the McLean, Sully, and West Springfield stations.

However, the board later moved to accelerate the program’s rollout in an effort to prioritize policing reform in light of nationwide protests following George Floyd’s death in Minneapolis, Minn., on May 25, 2020 and video of a Fairfax County police officer assaulting a Black man.

“As we have seen from many incidents across the country, these cameras are an indispensable tool for providing an accurate account of events that often are disputed by the parties involved,” Foust said. “Body worn cameras can protect our residents and our police officers by providing accurate accounts of police-civilian confrontations.”

Now aiming to introduce all 1,210 cameras in the program by the end of Fiscal Year 2021, the FCPD says it is coordinating scheduling to ensure that officers at the remaining Fair Oaks District, West Springfield District, and Sully District Stations are trained and equipped in the upcoming months.

The department is also working to expand the program to Animal Protection Police and parking enforcement officers as well as its special operations division and SWAT teams and the Diversion First initiative at the Merrifield Crisis Response Center.

The FCPD estimated in a presentation to the Board of Supervisors last June that it will cost a total of $4.5 million to implement the program’s second and third phases.

According to Jane Edmondson, the chief of staff for Foust’s office, the board identified net funding of $604,000 to cover the expansion of the body camera program as part of the FY 2021 budget carryover process. The program’s recurring impact is expected to be roughly $4.4 million, which must be incorporated in the FY 2022 budget.

County Executive Bryan Hill is scheduled to present his budget proposal on Feb. 23.

Photo via Fairfax County Police

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