Fairfax County Public Library Introduces Text Service — “Beginning today [Mar. 1], you can text your #Fairfax library questions to 571-556-5025 and receive answers in real time 10 a.m. to 5:45 p.m. Monday thru Friday. If it’s not during those real-time hours, send a text & a ticket will be automatically generated. We’ll respond when available.” [Fairfax County Public Library/Twitter]
New Police Reform Laws Take Effect — Several police reform laws passed during the Virginia General Assembly’s special session last year took effect yesterday, including a ban on no-knock search warrants, new statewide training standards related to racial bias and deescalation, and a “Marcus Alert” system that limits the role of law enforcement in responding to behavioral health issues. [@GovernorVA/Twitter]
Fairfax County Seeks Input on Active Transportation Plan — “The ActiveFairfax Transportation Plan will establish a vision and a roadmap for implementation of safe, convenient, and enjoyable streets, sidewalks, bike facilities, and trails in Fairfax County. “Community input is critical to the success of this planning effort,” said Chris Wells, the Active Transportation Program Manager at FCDOT.” [Fairfax County Department of Transportation]
McLean High School Kicks Off Football Season With a Win — “The McLean Highlanders opened their high-school football season with a 28-14 victory over the visiting Mount Vernon Majors on Feb. 27. McLean fell behind 7-0 on a long touchdown pass, then rallied.” [Sun Gazette/Inside NoVA]
The Town of Vienna recently lauded two police officers after they saved a man’s life by administering CPR when he stopped breathing.
According to the Vienna Police Department, MPO Kenny Smith and Officer Dale “Chip” McElhattan encountered a male driver who had been in a vehicle accident and were talking to him when he went into cardiac arrest, collapsing on the pavement and ceasing to breathe.
The department says in a news release that the officers “immediately jumped into action, rendering CPR and re-establishing a pulse and breathing.”
“Shortly after, the driver stopped breathing again,” the VPD said. “[The] officers worked tirelessly administering CPR until EMS arrived on the scene and took over the life-saving care.”
The driver was subsequently transported to a hospital in the area, where he was stabilized.
The Town of Vienna recognized the officers’ efforts on Feb. 17, when Vienna Police Chief Jim Morris and Town Manager Mercury Payton presented them with “life-saving” awards. Members of Vienna’s human resources department, police colleagues, friends, and family also attended the ceremony.
The police department says McElhattan and Smith have also been nominated for the Greater Reston Chamber of Commerce Valor award, which “recognizes public safety employees’ actions beyond the call of duty.”
A Bed Bath & Beyond in Tysons was robbed last week, Fairfax County police said this afternoon (Friday).
According to the Fairfax County Police Department’s latest weekly recap, someone forced their way into the store at 2051 Chain Bridge Road around 5:58 a.m. on Feb. 19. The person then “took property and ran away.”
The FCPD also reported today that they had arrested two suspects in a robbery that occurred around 8:23 p.m. on Wednesday (Feb. 24) at the intersection of Robert Lane and Monticello Drive in the West Falls Church area.
Here is the full summary of the incident:
A man walking home was approached by two juveniles who displayed a firearm, stole his personal property and left the area. No injuries were reported. The suspects were found by officers nearby and taken into custody after a foot pursuit. Charges for the juveniles are pending.
Photo via Google Maps
The City of Falls Church should establish independent processes for reviewing use-of-force incidents involving police officers and sheriff’s deputies, a committee tasked with evaluating the community’s relationship with local law enforcement found.
In a report released on Feb. 10 and reviewed by the city council last night (Monday), the Falls Church Use of Force Review Committee recommended that the city create a citizen review board and identify an outside organization to manage internal affairs investigations by the City of Falls Church Police Department and Sheriff’s Office.
“The implementation of an independent review of use of force incidents will mitigate the potential risk
inherent in the current system,” the committee said in its report. “An independent finding will not face the same level of legal challenges or public scrutiny because the process will be clear, the reviewers will not be in the officer’s supervisory chain, and the board will be transparent.”
The Virginia General Assembly passed legislation during its special session last year giving localities the authority to establish civilian bodies with oversight over local law enforcement agencies, though the law will not officially be effective until July 1.
If Falls Church pursues the review committee’s recommendations for independent oversight, it would follow in the steps of Fairfax County, which created an independent police auditor and civilian review panel in 2016 to evaluate select Fairfax County Police Department investigations.
The committee also recommends that the City of Falls Church allocate funds to increase staffing for the police department, noting that the agency has contained about 33 positions since the 1970s despite a roughly 56% rise in the city’s population in recent years, including a nearly 20% increase between 2010 and 2019.
In addition to adding more full-time officers, the report suggests hiring a full-time certified trainer who could help train police officers and sheriff’s deputies on use-of-force practices and procedures, bias reduction and restorative justice, and management of situations involving vulnerable populations, such as individuals with mental health challenges, people with disabilities, and non-English speakers.
The committee argues that failing to staff law enforcement and public safety agencies at levels commensurate to the population they serve “is a significant risk,” resulting in personnel who have less time to train and receive insufficient organizational support to perform their duties.
Other recommendations in the report include: Read More
A new bill could potentially significantly limit how long the Fairfax County Police Department and other state police departments can store data obtained through automated license plate readers (ALPRs).
As originally written, SB 1198 would bar police from storing data obtained by ALPRs for more than 30 days without a warrant or ongoing active investigation.
ALPRs can collect data and information like photos of license plates as well as a driver’s location at a particular date and time. They are often mounted on street poles, overpasses, or police square cars. A central server houses the data.
Privacy advocates and civil liberties organizations have criticized the technology for chilling First Amendment-protected activity and privacy concerns.
The Virginia State Supreme Court ruled late last year that police departments are allowed to keep this data “indefinitely,” no warrant or investigation needed. This came after a Fairfax County judge ruled otherwise in 2019, saying that the data collection was in violation of Virginia’s “Data Act.”
While some jurisdictions do purge this data relatively quickly, the Fairfax County Police Department does not.
Tysons Reporter’s affiliate site, Reston Now, has confirmed that FCPD stores information collected by ALPRs for up to a year.
Their reasoning is that the information helps protect the community and locate missing persons.
“Using technology such as license plate recognition has improved our ability to safeguard Fairfax County,” FCPD spokesperson Anthony Guglielmi told Reston Now in a statement. “With that, we have stringent systems in place to protect the information privacy and constitutional rights of those we serve. We appreciate efforts to further study this important issue because it’s paramount that we strike an equitable balance between data retention and investigational integrity.”
The state bill was introduced by State Sen. Chap Petersen who represents the 34th district, which covers Fairfax, Vienna, Oakton, and parts of Chantilly.
“License plate readers…capture the movement of vehicles. They track who’s attending a church service, who’s attending a political rally, a gun show,” Petersen told Reston Now. “It can be very arbitrary and very dangerous in that…it’s used to essentially put a layer of surveillance over citizens who are exercising their constitutional rights.” Read More
An Arlington resident who had been missing for several days was found dead yesterday (Wednesday) in Vienna near Wolf Trap National Park for the Performing Arts, Fairfax County police confirmed to Tysons Reporter this morning.
Oscar Flores, 27, had been missing since Feb. 13. The Arlington County Police Department put out a call for public assistance in a search on Tuesday (Feb. 16), reporting that he had last been seen around 8 p.m. on Saturday in the area of the Dulles Toll Road and Wolf Trap.
“Police and family are concerned for his health and welfare,” the ACPD said.
Arlington County police reported yesterday that Flores had been found deceased in Fairfax County.
The Fairfax County Police Department told Tysons Reporter in a statement that, around 12:30 p.m. on Wednesday, Arlington police had requested one of its helicopters to assist in searching for Flores in the area surrounding the Dulles Toll Road.
The searchers located Flores “in an area off the roadway near Trap Road,” and he was pronounced dead at the scene, according to the FCPD.
FCPD Major Crimes Bureau detectives then responded to assume the death investigation.
“Preliminarily, they do not suspect foul play,” the FCPD said.
An autopsy to determine the cause of death is currently being conducted by Fairfax County’s Office of the Chief Medical Examiner, but the FCPD says that any information pertaining to the missing person’s investigation should be directed to Arlington County.
A Door Dash driver’s vehicle was stolen when he stopped at Wawa to pick up a delivery last week, the Vienna Police Department says in its latest round-up of notable criminal and suspicious incidents around town.
The driver told police that, around 12:35 a.m. on Feb. 4, he left his vehicle running in the Wawa parking lot at 465 Maple Ave. W while going inside to pick up a food order. While he was inside the convenience store, someone stole the vehicle.
The citizen waited “several minutes” before calling to report the incident, according to the police report.
Vienna police alerted surrounding jurisdictions to look out for the missing vehicle. Fairfax County police officers soon located the vehicle at Chain Bridge Road and Glengyle Drive just outside the Town of Vienna. The vehicle was unoccupied and still running.
“The citizen reported that a Play Station 4, a keyboard, and marijuana were missing from the vehicle,” the VPD report said. “The citizen did not wish to pursue charges and did not wish further investigation on the incident.”
More recently, Vienna police responded to a Feb. 9 report of an alarm going off around 9:23 p.m. at the CVS at 264 Cedar Lane SE.
Officers did not find anyone or notice anything suspicious when searching the store, but the alarm company said that surveillance cameras had captured video showing someone inside. The footage suggested that the last employee at the CVS had “closed and secured the store without realizing there was a customer inside.”
“The customer, who was observed on the camera, approached the register to make their purchase, realized there were no employees in the store, left the items they were going to purchase, and left the store,” the police report said.
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
According to Sergeant Hudson Bull of Fairfax County Police Department, Rohrer’s top priorities will be providing a smooth transition to the next police chief and ensuring “community safety.”
Responding directly to reports of low morale and continued skepticism of leadership among rank-and-file officers, Bull noted that the new interim chief is working to dispel this notion.
“Chief Rohrer wants to make sure that community members, county employees, and officers are confident in the leadership of the department,” Bull told Tysons Reporter’s affiliate site, Reston Now. “[He’s] focused on listening to officers and moving the department forward…Chief Rohrer is thankful for officers’ dedication and professionalism during these challenging times.”
FCPD declined requests for a phone interview with Rohrer, saying that Rohrer is focusing on “providing a smooth transition for the next chief of police.”
This isn’t new territory for Rohrer. He previously served as the Fairfax County Police Department’s chief from 2004 to 2012, when he was promoted to deputy county executive overseeing public safety. In that position, he oversees the department, which consists of about 1,400 police officers, as well as the fire and rescue department and other county public safety agencies.
He will remain deputy county executive even as he takes on this new responsibility.
“I work closely with Deputy County Executive Rohrer on a daily basis and I could not be more confident in his ability to see the Police Department through this period while we search for a new chief,” Fairfax County Executive Bryan J. Hill wrote in a statement to The Washington Post late last month.
Rohrer’s personality and management style, in 2012, was described as deliberate, not “flamboyant,” and hard-working.
While Rohrer’s second tenure as police chief may be brief, it comes at a time when the department is in the midst of significant change.
During his eight years as chief, Roessler implemented nearly 200 reform efforts including body-worn cameras for all officers, a citizen review panel, de-escalation training, and a diversion program for people with mental health challenges. Much of this was done in the wake of the 2013 fatal police shooting of an unarmed Springfield man.
However, efforts to reform the FCPD has gotten some pushback from rank-and-file officers. That tension became particularly acute after an officer was arrested for assault over the summer for using a stun gun and unnecessary force on a Black man who did not appear to be combative.
FCPD spokesperson Sergeant Hudson Bull wrote to Reston Now that Rohrer is prioritizing continuing the county’s reputation as being safe.
“Chief Rohrer wants to focus on ensuring that our County remains one of the safest jurisdictions in the country by supporting our officers and remaining attentive to the needs of our community members,” he wrote.
Bull says Rohrer’s experience and institutional knowledge made him a perfect fit for this temporary job as a nationwide search for a permanent replacement for Roessler continues. The Board of Supervisors is expected to announce its selection in late March or early April.
“The Chief’s vast experience in public safety provides him with insight and knowledge to be able to make the best possible decisions regarding important public safety matters for our community,” Bull wrote. “His long tenure with Fairfax County gives him intimate knowledge of the public safety function that is provided within our county government.”
An employee of a Best Buy in Tysons was repeatedly stabbed during an argument on Wednesday (Feb. 3), Fairfax County police said today (Friday).
According to the police report, the worker was involved in a dispute with a man who stabbed them “multiple times before running away.” The encounter took place at 12:15 p.m. in the Best Buy located at 8449 Leesburg Pike.
Upon arriving at the scene, officers reportedly “located” a 25-year-old Maryland resident named Jose Reyes who was taken into custody and charged with malicious wounding.
“The victim was taken to the hospital with injuries that were not life threatening,” the Fairfax County Police Department said.
Photo via Google Maps