The Fairfax County Democratic Committee wants county leaders to fire newly hired county Police Chief Kevin Davis in response to continued controversy surrounding his history as an officer.
The local political group passed a motion at its general membership meeting yesterday (Tuesday) recommending that the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors fire Davis, reopen the police search, and implement a transparent hiring process.
“We believe we need to overhaul the criminal justice system from top to bottom, to end racial inequity in policing, end police brutality and build a police force built on trust where our residents don’t need to worry about protecting their families from the police sworn to protect and serve them,” FCDC said.
Davis’s hiring has drawn vocal criticism from civil rights advocates and community groups since he was appointed as retired Chief Edwin Roessler’s successor on April 23, particularly in the wake of an NBC4 report on two lawsuits that he faced while working as an officer in Prince George’s County, Maryland in the 1990s.
In one case, Davis reportedly stopped and violently arrested a driver, eventually leading to a $12,500 jury award to Mark Spann, who is Black. The other case involved Davis and a group of narcotics officers illegally detaining a 19-year-old, who later sued and won a $90,000 judgment.
Davis has also faced renewed scrutiny for his 2015-2018 tenure as commissioner of the Baltimore Police Department, which included a secret aerial surveillance program and a six-day lockdown of the predominantly Black Harlem Park neighborhood that is the subject of an ongoing lawsuit filed by the ACLU’s Maryland chapter.
“Hiring a candidate with a history of racially charged use of force incidents in their past is not starting from a place where community trust can be built,” FCDC said.
A spokesperson from his office declined to comment on the FCDC motion, which was developed by the committee’s Black caucus. The committee says in a press release that it was “overwhelmingly” supported by its 1,000-plus members.
In lieu of a comment, McKay’s office shared a letter sent to FCDC on May 20 that touted Davis’s “ability to implement progressive reforms,” citing his efforts to implement changes in Baltimore like the introduction of body-worn cameras and a revised use-of-force policy that emphasizes deescalation.
The letter, which was signed by all nine Democratic supervisors, also defended the level of public engagement used during the police chief hiring process. The search included a pre-screening panel, a survey that generated over 3,000 responses, and an outreach campaign with over 275 community meetings and calls.
“We are confident that this year’s process was the broadest and incorporated both extensive public input and intentional inclusivity,” the Board of Supervisors letter said. “Regardless, we commit to looking at our entire public participation process for future personnel decisions and establishing a framework for further improvement.” Read More
The Fairfax County chapter of the NAACP is not impressed by the search process and resulting hire of Kevin Davis as the county’s new police chief, effective May 3, and is calling for a do-over.
“The Fairfax County NAACP does not have confidence in the process by which the new Police Chief was hired — or its results — and requests that the County, in collaboration with the community, conduct a transparent search for a new Police Chief together,” President Karen Campblin wrote in a statement released yesterday (April 29).
Campblin called the process “deeply troubling” and expressed disappointment in “the lack of transparency and accountability to the public.”
We are disappointed in how the new police chief was selected, and how the public was excluded from the process. This lack of transparency gives us several concerns about the new chief and the future of the police force. Read more of our statement here: https://t.co/IENAYUyyUl pic.twitter.com/Iv6WBrKw2K
— Fairfax County NAACP (@FairfaxNAACP) April 29, 2021
She notes that the hiring process stands in stark contrast to the county’s last police chief search in 2013, when residents were directly involved in candidate evaluations and interviews.
In 2013, a panel of 20 community members, including police union representatives and faith leaders, considered 40 to 50 candidates and recommended three finalists to the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors, according to The Washington Post.
Ultimately, Edwin C. Roessler Jr. was selected for the job. His retirement in February prompted the county’s search for a new Fairfax County Police Department leader.
Board of Supervisors Chairman Jeff McKay says that the county conducted “an extensive interview and outreach process” when looking for Roessler’s successor that involved over 275 community meetings and calls, over 450 emails to stakeholders, and a community survey that received over 3,000 responses.
“The entire Board was unanimous in their confidence in Kevin Davis’s ability to lead our Department and to further our already ongoing Board of Supervisor’s directed policing reforms,” McKay said in a statement.
However, the results of the survey have not been made public, and Campblin says the county board has provided little justification to the public regarding what distinguished Davis from other candidates.
“At a minimum, the results of a county-wide survey that was supposed to be used to help guide the search and interviews, should have been presented to the Board of Supervisors at a regularly scheduled meeting and made readily available for public review,” she wrote. “The Board also should have provided a better understanding of the reasons it believes Mr. Davis is the best candidate to run the FCPD.”
The civil rights organization also says it is concerned about the NBC4 Washington report on two lawsuits from earlier in Davis’s time as a police officer in Prince George’s County. One of the cases involved an inappropriate use of force and accusations of racist mistreatment, while the other was related to false imprisonment.
The victims won both civil lawsuits.
“These reports raised concerns for the life and safety of our youth, members with disabilities, LGBTQ, and BIPOC communities,” Campblin said.
In his statement, McKay reiterated his support for the new police chief and his belief that Davis will help the county implement “critical reforms” to address systemic inequities in policing, sentiments that he expressed to Tysons Reporter earlier this week.
“Through our interview process, Mr. Davis demonstrated a complete understanding and commitment to improving policing, promoting transparency, and building relationships in the community,” McKay said. “In addition, following conversations with leaders across the region as well as people who have directly worked with him, it is clear that they also have tremendous confidence in his abilities.”
Lee District Supervisor Rodney Lusk, who chairs the board’s public safety committee, reaffirmed the county’s decision while expressing some skepticism of the validity of NBC4’s report.
“Based on my conversations with Mr. Davis during the interview process, and since his selection, I am confident that he is the best choice to lead the Fairfax County Police Department,” Lusk said. “I am concerned that recent media reports regarding Mr. Davis’s record may not accurately reflect the events in question.”
Lusk says that he and McKay will host a public forum “in the coming days” where he hopes Davis will address the reported incidents.
Pressing issues from the ongoing pandemic and Black Lives Matter Movement after police killed George Floyd inspired Perryman to explore jumping into Virginia’s lieutenant governor race.
“It was really born out of the crisis we are seeing,” Perryman said. “This was not something that was in the cards for me when I first started this year.”
Already familiar with how to elect local Democrats from his work for Virginia’s Democratic Party, Perryman said that the lieutenant governor position would give him the most leverage to advocate change.
In addition to his role as Fairfax County NAACP’s president, Perryman works for the Internet Association. Previously, he served as counsel for the House of Representatives Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. He practiced civil litigation in Texas and D.C. after attending Vanderbilt University.
Current Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax, a Democrat, is eyeing a run for governor in 2021. The election for Fairfax’s seat will be held next November.
So far, Del. Hala Ayala (D-51st) and Paul Goldman, the former chair of Virginia’s Democratic Party, and have announced they will vie for Fairfax’s seat. In addition to Perryman, Del. Elizabeth Guzman (D-31st) and Norfolk Councilmember Andria McClellan are considering running for the position.
Currently, Perryman said he is working with his team to figure out how they can best “serve Virginians” and that they haven’t set a date to officially announce his candidacy. Perryman shared with Tysons Reporter what some of his top issues are.
Perryman said that extending the eviction moratorium is one of his main priorities, noting that he’s already been advocating for the extension in Virginia with the NAACP since the pandemic started.
“The federal government did not provide enough assistance to get people through this crisis and now I think, rather cruelly, allowing people to be evicted when all they did was adhere to what the government told them to do,” Perryman told Tysons Reporter.
Though the Virginia Supreme Court extended the eviction moratorium through early September, Perryman said this isn’t enough time for people to recover from the pandemic’s economic fallout.
“It really depends on how long it takes the federal government to get financial assistance to those people in need,” he said.
Allocation of the CARES Act funding, which allows states to extend unemployment benefits to independent contractors, is yet another area that needs work, according to Perryman. “Here in Virginia, what we can do better is the unemployment insurance that is available.”
People had to wait weeks for Virginia to sort out the delays with unemployment payments. Virginia’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate was 2.7 percent in January before skyrocketing in the spring due to the pandemic.
Perryman said that unemployment benefits should be more widely accessible for all kinds of workers as long as they can prove their income was interrupted by the pandemic.
Perryman attributed Virginia’s unemployment office being short-staffed — “It wasn’t up to par for what was coming” — as a reason for the delays and suggested that there is an opportunity to revamp the department and hire new people.
Right now, Perryman is focused on grassroots fundraising. He managed to raise over $80,000, all of which came from individuals — not corporations or political action committees — in the first 10 days of the campaign, Perryman tweeted.
“I’m relying on small-dollar donations from the community,” he said.
His next steps include meeting with community activists and elected officials. No matter what happens in the next few months, Perryman said it’s crucial that voters pay attention to state elections.
While voter fatigue is possible with the tensions around the upcoming elections this fall, Perryman said people need to think about the changes they want to see both locally and nationally.
“People understand we are in unprecedented times,” Perryman said. “None of us thought we’d be sanitizing our groceries, wearing masks and talking only via Zoom. We can’t give up or get tired. We have to essentially rebuild the society we are living in.”
THREAD: I’m excited to share that I’m exploring a run for Lieutenant Governor of Virginia. Over the next few months, I’m looking forward to meeting with people across the Commonwealth to hear about the issues that are important to them.
— Sean Perryman (@SeanPerryman3) July 27, 2020
Photo courtesy Sean Perryman
Fairfax County Public Schools’ superintendent said he is committed to tackling racism in the public school system during a town hall last night.
The Fairfax County NAACP met with FCPS Superintendent Scott Brabrand to talk about how to address systemic racism going into the 2020-2021 school year.
The discussion between Sujatha Hampton, the Fairfax County NAACP’s education chair, and Brabrand, along with several other guests, focused on a list of priorities from Fairfax County NAACP to address equity.
Brabrand repeated throughout the town hall that he was ready to be held accountable for making change. “We need to be more comfortable feeling uncomfortable,” Brabrand said at the end of the meeting.
The town hall began with a discussion on COVID-19 and the status of reopening schools. On July 21, Brabrand announced that schools would be opening virtually on Sept. 8. Hampton made it clear that it will be essential to address the inequities that online learning presents in minority communities.
What would an anti-racist school system look like and how can FCPS strive for that? Hampton had several proposals.
One would address the scope of the chief equity officer position within the county, with Hampton noting the importance of hiring someone with “anti-racist” policies versus a traditional hire for the position.
Hampton’s proposed job description included conveying “transformational leadership” and having “successful experience as a change agent.”
“Anti-racism is a fairly new thing for systems to be considering,” said Hampton when emphasizing the importance of radical change with leadership.
Another priority is creating an anti-racist curriculum. FCPS Social Studies Coordinator Colleen Eddy said that they are already in the process of auditing the existing curriculum.
A major topic of discussion was the disproportionate discipline statistics in the county’s schools. Hampton presented a series of data points showcasing the high number of Black students receiving referrals for “disruptive behavior” versus their peers. FCPS Deputy Superintendent Frances Ivey agreed that it’s time to reinforce positive behavior rather than disciplining students.
Hampton also discussed the lack of Black teachers and principles within the school system and emphasized the importance of creating a data-driven plan to hire more Black teachers in a transparent way. She said the culture of a school stems from a principal, and it is “criminal” to give kids a racist principal.
“I want everyone to remember that these are actual children’s lives,” Hampton said.
Photo via Sam Balye/Unsplash
Brabrand was originally going to co-host a town hall on the topic with Fairfax NAACP on July 21. He dropped out of the event, which took place the same night the county’s school board reconsidered reopening plans for schools.
Fairfax NAACP pivoted and used the town hall on July 21 to unveil the organization’s priorities for combatting racism in schools. Fairfax NAACP President Sean Perryman said during the event that the organization would work to reschedule the discussion with Brabrand.
Now, Brabrand and Fairfax NAACP are scheduled to host a town hall from 6:30-7:30 p.m. on Wednesday, Aug. 5. People can watch the event on Facebook Live.
“One topic that will be discussed is the School-to-Prison Pipeline,” Fairfax NAACP posted on Facebook, sharing a YouTube video by The Root, a Black-oriented online magazine, that explains how the School-to-Prison Pipeline works.
Here’s the event description:
From academic achievement, enrollment at Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology, to the School Resource Officer program and the school-to-prison pipeline, systemic racism effects our children’s lives every day. This will be a civil discourse where we can openly talk about our and our kids’ experiences, ask questions, and talk about what change looks like.
Photo via Sam Balye/Unsplash
Fairfax NAACP Head May Run for Lt. Governor — “Fairfax County NAACP president Sean Perryman announced an exploratory bid for the position of lieutenant governor Monday, explaining that the ongoing coronavirus pandemic and resultant economic crisis had catalyzed his run.” [WTOP]
Upzoning in Tysons — “While there are advantages and disadvantages relative to replacing single-family zoning with two- to four-unit zoning, Tysons’ plan may provide an alternative model for suburban upzoning in locations where eliminating single-family zoning runs into political roadblocks.” [Greater Greater Washington]
Gym Eyeing Tysons — “United Kingdom-based gym chain PureGym will open its first location in the United States in Springfield… Parties are now drafting construction drawings for the Springfield location to apply for permits with Fairfax County, the source said, adding that PureGym is eyeing more locations in the region, including in Tysons.” [Washington Business Journal]
Renamed School Holiday — “The Fairfax County School Board has voted to rename Columbus Day as Indigenous Peoples’ Day for the previously approved 2020-21 Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS) school year calendar as well as the yet-to-be approved 2021-22 school year calendar. The 2021-22 calendar is scheduled to be adopted in September.” [FCPS]
Topics for the 8/11 On Deck with Mercury include policing in Vienna, use of force, and a path forward. Advance registration is required and open to ToV residents only: https://t.co/zixwSegceY The conversation with Chief Jim Morris and others will be live-streamed on YouTube. pic.twitter.com/7R87DWXBf9
— Town of Vienna, VA (@TownofViennaVA) July 28, 2020
Photo courtesy Joanne Liebig
The Mary Riley Styles Public Library in Falls Church is looking to move forward discussions about police reform in the community.
The City of Falls Church announced today that the library will host an online forum next Wednesday (Aug. 5).
The panelists for the event include the city’s police chief, the president of the Fairfax County NAACP and the city’s HR director. Jennifer Carroll, the library’s director, will moderate the event.
“Learn more about the national Mayor’s Pledge (which was signed by Mayor [David] Tarter in June); the City’s Use of Force Review Committee; the principles of 21st century policing; and what issues lie behind the ‘defund police’ movement,” according to the event description.
The event is set to start at 7 p.m. People can register for the Zoom event by emailing [email protected]
A virtual town hall next week will tackle systemic racism and equity issues that students face in public schools.
Fairfax County NAACP and Fairfax County Public Schools Superintendent Scott Brabrand are hosting the event.
“From academic achievement, enrollment at Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology, to the School Resource Officer program and the school-to-prison pipeline, systemic racism affects our children’s lives every day,” the event description says, noting the town hall will focus on students’ experiences.
Previously, FCPS officials and Fairfax NAACP hosted an event in May, where Brabrand said he is committed to seeing the school system work faster to address racism within the public schools, WUSA9 reported.
The upcoming town hall is set to take place at 6 p.m. on Tuesday, July 21.
Photo via Sam Balye/Unsplash
Last night’s town hall with Fairfax County’s police chief covered a variety of issues related to police reform, from progress on the demands made by Fairfax County NAACP to body-worn cameras.
Hunter Mill District Supervisor Walter Alcorn hosted the meeting last night to give locals a chance to provide input and ask questions. The conflict-free town hall mainly focused on Police Chief Edwin Roessler Jr. answering questions from audience members and explaining FCPD’s policies in detail.
Roessler highlighted the reforms made by FCPD since the shooting of John Geer, an unarmed Springfield man, in 2013. They have shifted towards a “co-production” method of policing, which emphasizes the importance of community engagement by bringing in advocates to review issues and discuss police report narratives.
A big goal of the police department is to increase diversion of tasks, including sending mental health or substance abuse cases away from the police. Lee District Supervisor Rodney Lusk, who is the chair of the county’s Public Safety Committee, also emphasized that the current range of issues diverted to the police is “too much to ask of them” and is in support of the Diversion First model.
The chief addressed terminology that the public wanted to be defined, including the FCPD’s definition of the use of force as “anything beyond a guide or escort, or above putting handcuffs on.” Roessler said that anything beyond that is subject to investigation. Additionally, he clarified that chokeholds are prohibited in Fairfax County.
Roessler also touched on the development of body-worn cameras. He said that the idea has been in the works since June 2015, and he wants to adopt the co-production model of community engagement in this development.
He says they are making “great progress” on this project and that the policies regarding the cameras are addressed online in an American University pilot program testing the same model of body camera policies. They plan to evaluate the body cameras again in-person in September to ensure the policies are exceeding community expectations.
Roessler discussed the evaluation and promotion process of officers, saying that evaluation begins upon application. He described a thorough path of training that officers go through before assignments. Additionally, they value community engagement when evaluating candidates for senior staff positions to ensure officers “embody the spirit of what the community needs for the future.”
“We want our officers to engage with the community members in a positive fashion, not just calls for service,” Roessler said in describing what they look for upon officer evaluation.
Other issues covered included the presence of the MS-13 gang, to which Roessler said they “will be relentless on gang activity in Fairfax County.”
When asked how the police department addresses domestic and sexual violence, Roessler said they use the Lethality Assessment Program — Maryland Model to assess the situation and connect victims with immediate help, such as counselors, attorneys or volunteers from the community.
Photo via Youtube Live
At last night’s town hall meeting by the Fairfax County NAACP, the organization’s president Sean Perryman met with local elected officials and community leaders to discuss the future of policing.
Since the killing of George Floyd in police custody and outrage over racial inequities in the U.S., the NAACP compiled a list of policy changes for how to address how police use force and report actions to the public.
Top demands for reform include:
- removing police from schools
- reporting data efficiently
- implementing body-worn cameras
- reporting officer misconduct
- reviewing the use of force policy
- demilitarizing the police force
- mandating counseling/early intervention
Perryman said that the Fairfax County Police Department needs to see policy and budget overhauls to end systemic racism and better serve the community. Perryman said that nearly half the police use of force in the area is used against Black individuals even though they make up 10% of the population.
At the meeting, the attendees, which included Supervisors Dalia Pakchik, John Foust, Walter Alcorn and Chairman Jeff McKay, all agreed that changes are needed to improve the safety and security of every Fairfax County resident.
Fairfax County Police Chief Edwin Roessler Jr. expressed a willingness to work with the NAACP on the proposed changes.
“I don’t think I oppose in whole any one of these items,” Roessler said, but added that there might be stipulations on certain topics.
A point of confusion at the meeting was about the transparency of data. Though everyone agreed that data is important to tracking issues and upcoming solutions, no one was on the same page when it came to the type of data and release date.
The FCPD police chief said that recent data on use of force data and school arrests should be released to McKay later this week, but the department is transitioning to a new data management system to achieve the goal.
“We have a lot of promises for data and more transparency but we aren’t actually getting the data,” Perryman said, adding that this data needs to be not only released to the county board, but also to the public.
“This would give the community some insight into what is happening,” Perryman said, adding that this data needs to include other information such as traffic stops and the races of officers and civilians involved.
The conversation on body-worn cameras for officers revolved around best practices and use.
Perryman suggested that officers shouldn’t be allowed to choose when to use them, calling it “an essential part of transparency,” he said.
“It is a waste of equipment, essentially a lens with a price tag, if there is no policy in place that prevents officers from turning this off or selectively turning it on,” he added.
When it comes to budget and funding, Perryman doesn’t believe the department should receive extra money from the state or the county for this project, suggesting that the cost should come from internal budget shifts.
“What we’ve seen in the past when there is a problem with the police, we give them more money to get more toys and we think that needs to stop,” Perryman said. “I don’t think there is an appetite for it here in the country or anywhere else actually.”
The town hall also addressed concerns with civilian review panels.
Tn the past, the panels have struggled to “have teeth,” according to Roessler, who added that the General Assembly would need to correct that.
Though there are challenges, Perryman said that people need to stop pointing fingers and create a substantial plan. He wants the panel to be independent and have the power to investigative incidents independently.
“This has to be a group that can stand up and can make clear recommendations to us,” McKay agreed. “I’ll be happy to work with you on the roster.”
Later in the meeting, Alcorn spoke up and talked about limiting the presence of firearms in the community.
“I’m not sure sending out folks with firearms is the best approach in 2020,” Alcorn said, adding that when someone calls 911, depending on the situation, there are better ways to address a community need.
Supervisors Palchik and Foust offered their support to continue the conversation with both FCPD and Fairfax County NAACP about new policies and best practices.
“We are not immune from making the types of reforms that are necessary to build the kind of confidence that everyone should have in our law enforcement agencies,” McKay said. “The most important thing for elected officials to do right now is to listen.”
Photo via Facebook Live