Tysons, VA

Recent arrest data released by the Fairfax County Police Department shows more evidence of disproportionate policing in the county.

The data indicate that Black individuals made up roughly 39 percent of all arrests last year. Black residents account for 9.7 percent of the total population.

FCPD officers arrested 34,330 people in 2019, 57 percent of which were white. White residents make up roughly 61 percent of the total population.

But more information recently provided on the residence of offenders sheds additional light on racial disparities.

Most arrests of Black individuals — nearly 55 percent — were of people outside Fairfax County. But even Black residents who live in the county were arrested at higher rates (29 percent) relative to their population makeup in the county. In Virginia, Black individuals account for nearly 20 percent of the population. 

The Fairfax NAACP says the latest data provide further evidence of disproportionate policing of Blacks in Fairfax County.

We have significant concerns regarding how the data are being collected and released to the public. But what we know for now is that after “use of force” and other policies have been revised and training has purportedly been improved, the data FCPD has released consistently reveal significant problems with disproportionate policing of people of color. Not only is this unacceptable, but it further demonstrates the urgency of the Fairfax County NAACP’s demand that all relevant data concerning FCPD officers’ interactions with citizens – which was promised in 2015 and is long overdue – must be released,” said Luke Levasseur, the chapter’s criminal justice chair.

Most arrests (66 percent) of white people were of county residents.  Traffic stop data, on the other hand, show minimal disparities.

The police department released its data following calls for police reform and nationwide protests over the deaths of Black men and women at the hands of law enforcement. FCPD says it is offering more information in an effort to maintain its commitment of transparency. The department held a community town hall about policing issues with Hunter Mill District Supervisor Walter Alcorn.

Nearly 70 percent of all traffic citations were given to white people, while 18 percent were given to Black individuals. A detailed breakdown of traffic stop data is available online.

Last month, FCPD released additional data on use of force incidents. Black residents were involved in 46 percent of all use-of-force incidents, even though they make up less than 10 percent of the county’s total population.

Researchers at University of Texas at San Antonio are studying the department’s culture after a study released in 2017 found that roughly 40 percent of all use-of-force incidents involve a Black individual.

Levasseur says the county needs to do more to improve its policing.

“Fairfax County residents deserve policing that does not disproportionality harm Black people, and we believe that the only way that can be achieved is complete transparency with respect to how the county’s different communities are being policed.”

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Vienna Welcomes New Elected Officials — “The new Town Council members, elected during a year with a bumper crop of candidates but virtually no door-to-door campaigning, already are working well together, [new mayor Linda] Colbert said.” [Inside NoVa]

Citizens Group Calls for More Police Accountability — “The Fairfax County Police Department implemented multiple measures following a series of controversial incidents in recent years, but the McLean Citizens Association’s board of directors wants the department to do even more to make officers accountable.” [Inside NoVa]

New Names — “Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam wants school districts across the state to change school names that honor Confederate leaders, writing Monday in a letter to school board leaders that those names ‘reflect our broken and racist past.'” [Patch]

Call to Defund SROs — “Fairfax County NAACP and State Del. Kaye Kory (D) sent a letter to Gov. Ralph Northam Tuesday asking him to reallocate state funding away from supporting police officers in schools and putting it toward more school counselors.” [Patch]

Local Companies Land “Inno on Fire” List — Both McLean-based Somatus, which focuses on kidney care, and Tysons-based RunSafe Security made DC Inno’s list of the companies, organizations, people and initiatives focused on innovation. [DC Inno]

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Vienna officials shared the plan for addressing racial inequities in the town, especially involving policing, following a petition for officials to reexamine its project for a new police station.

The petition, which was started by 23 James Madison High School alumni, urges town officials to halt work on the new station until there are more community conversations and a commission report on racial justice and policing in the town. Currently, the petition has more than 1,500 signatures.

Mayor Linda Colbert read a statement shortly after the Town Council meeting began last night, saying that the town agrees with the “underlying spirit” of the petition but plans to continue work on the $17 million project.

“While we believe that a conversation on racial injustice must go forward, we do not believe it would serve the ultimate goal of racial equality to delay the process of building a new police station,” Colbert said.

Colbert said that delaying the police station project would jeopardize the safety and security of residents, listing the problems of the current station from too small locker rooms for female officers and lack of storage for evidence.

“The current building is unsafe,” Colbert said as a slideshow showed photos of the facility. “The current building is not community friendly because there is not a private lobby or a space in which a resident can file a complaint and there is no community room to hold interactions with town residents.”

Colbert added the current “substandard” police station could detract the town’s ability to hire the best police candidates and said that the town has already borrowed funds at a low interest rate for the project, which will be paid for with meals taxes.

Colbert also pointed to the classes the police department provides, including ones on self-defense and crime prevention, and Vienna’s high rankings as one of the safest localities in Virginia.

“We are proud of the Vienna Police Department,” Colbert said. “We have a dedicated and committed group of officers who protect our citizens every day. They are community-minded and have a very positive reputation among residents.”

Colbert outlined steps the town plans to take, including an already-completed review by the police chief of the department’s use of policies, two upcoming events with Town Manager Mercury Payton, and mailings about the police department’s use of force policies, which ban chokeholds.

Colbert added that she signed the Obama Foundation’s Commit to Action — also known as the mayor’s pledge — to review use of force policies, engage diverse input in the review, report the findings and reform the policies.

Reva Joshi, one of the locals behind the effort to reevaluate the police station, thanked the Town Council last night for the response, but said it does not address the petition’s calls for a report of the use of force policies from a commission made up of diverse community members.

“I don’t think I need to point out here that [the police chief] will be extremely biased towards his own department,” Joshi said.

Joshi said that the petition is not against upgrading the police station — instead, it questions the “unnecessary” additions like a new shooting range and community spaces that add to the $17 million price tag.

Joshi said that she disagrees with calls to continue the police station because of the planning that has already happened. “Also, it seems that the only criticism of our group’s efforts is that we are just a bunch of young people who are frustrated and just want to see something happen,” she said.

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(Updated 2:40 p.m.) Vienna police received a couple of reports last week about assaults along the W&OD Trail.

All of the incidents happened Monday (June 29) on the bike trail. Around 1:40 p.m. near the Vienna Community Center, a woman said a man on a bicycle hit her butt with his hand as he rode by before doing the same thing to a girl riding a bike, according to the police recap.

Police were not able to find the man after searching the area, according to the recap.

Then at 8 p.m., a similar incident happened near the 800 block of Follin Lane SE. “On June 30, a resident reported that the previous night she was walking on the bike trail when an unknown man approached her on a bicycle and struck her on her buttock with his hand,” the police recap said.

Juan Vazquez, the spokesperson for the police department, said it’s too soon to tell if the incidents involved the same man or not. Vazquez declined to offer suspect descriptions from the incidents.

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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

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Have a Safe Fourth of July Weekend — Tysons Reporter will be off tomorrow (Friday) and return to our normal publishing schedule on Monday.

Schools May Get Renamed — “[The] Falls Church School Board agreed by consensus to move forward with a process to consider whether or not to change the names of two of its schools, George Mason High and Thomas Jefferson Elementary, on grounds that the Founding Fathers the schools are currently named for both owned slaves.” [Falls Church News-Press]

New Unemployment Data — “Following state and national trends, the Northern Virginia region’s unemployment rate declined in May to 8.6%, down from 10% in April.” [Inside NoVa]

New Police Data Collection Law — “The City of Falls Church has noted in a statement that effective July 1, the Virginia Department of State Police, Criminal Justice Information Services Division, Uniform Crime Reporting Section will begin the collection of community policing data.” [Falls Church News-Press]

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Hunter Mill District Supervisor Walter Alcorn is inviting locals to join his upcoming virtual event with Fairfax County’s police chief.

Alcorn plans to host the virtual town hall with Chief of Police Edwin Roessler Jr. from 7-8 p.m. on Wednesday, July 1.

Hunter Mill District residents can join in the discussion on the police department and the community by asking questions or providing input on policing topics, according to an email from Alcorn’s office. People who cannot attend the event live can email questions to the Hunter Mill District Office.

Participants will have a number of ways of joining the town hall, which will be hosted on Webex.

People can either register to attend via Webex, watch on YouTube Live or listen in by calling 1-408-418-9388 and using the access code 129 359 7948.

Once the event ends, the YouTube video will be available on the Hunter Mill District website sometime on Thursday evening, according to the email.

Alcorn photo via Supervisor Walter Alcorn/Facebook, Roessler photo via Fairfax County

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In response to demands for police reform in the City of Falls Church, the City Council is seeking residents to serve on its new Use of Force Review Committee.

The committee members will be responsible for meeting bi-weekly from August to November to rethink police force policies and procedures, engage the community for diverse perspectives, report findings and make recommendations, according to a press release.

Volunteer applications are due July 5 at 11:59 p.m.

Councilmembers are ultimately responsible for choosing the candidates, and upcoming committee members can expect to be officially appointed on July 27, the press release said.

Here’s more from the press release:

The recent killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and the loss of many other Black lives, have left our nation anguished and outraged. The Obama Foundation and the My Brother’s Keeper Alliance have called on mayors and other city officials to pledge to take actions to review and reform police use of force policies and procedures. Mayor Tarter and City Council have committed to follow the precepts of the pledge and look forward to the UFRC’s recommendations.

People who want more information about the position can contact the city clerk’s office at 703-248-5014 (TTY 711).

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Black residents are involved in 46% of all use-of-force incidents by Fairfax County Police Department, even though they make up less than 10% of the county’s total population, according to report released today (Tuesday).

The Fairfax County Police Department’s latest report sheds new light on the disproportionate impact of use of force on the local Black community. Data are based on closed cases between 2019 and June 1 of this year.

In the backdrop of the national uproar over the killing of George Floyd, calls for more police data and major reforms have echoed in Fairfax County.

It’s not the first time the department’s use of force culture has been under scrutiny. Researchers at the University of Texas at San Antonio are studying the department’s culture after a study released in 2017 found that roughly 40%  of all use-of-force incidents involve a Black individual.

The county’s Board of Supervisors directed Police Auditor Richard Schott to find an academic team to review the data. That study is expected to be released by January 2021.

Nearly 82% of all officers involved in use-of-force incidents are white — which is consistent with the fact that nearly 81% of all FCPD officers are white. Similarly, Black officers are involved in nearly 6.8% of all cases and make up roughly 7.6% of the county’s police force.

The disparity is less pronounced but still apparent for cases responded to by officers from the Reston District Station.

Black residents were involved in roughly 31% of use-of-force incidents, even though they make up a little over 8% of the total population. Roughly 48% of all use-of-force incidents involved whites, who make up 67% of the total population.

The number of use of force incidents jumped by 20% between 2018 and 2019, according to the report.

Overall, common use-of-force tactics include forcing to cuff, forcing to hold, pointing a firearm and takedowns. The complete report is available online.

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Dozens of locals created a petition to reexamine the use of Vienna’s budget to construct a new police station.

The petition, which has since gained over 1,000 signatures, calls for the Town of Vienna to halt the building construction until the Town Council arranges a “formal commission and engages in meaningful dialogue with the community to discuss  the best way forward with regard to public safety.”

Twenty-three alumni of James Madison High School started the petition.

“Within the first 24 hours of publishing the petition, we’ve received hundreds of signatures,” Casey Grage, one of the petition’s creators, said. “It turns out we were correct in our assumption that there is a better way to spend Vienna money.”

The police station project includes plans to create a community gathering space. It would be located at 215 Center S. Street and cost roughly $14 million.

Grage first decided to get involved with the project after she said she felt that the project wasn’t properly publicized.

The petition outlines concerns that the police station plans lack enough community input and proposes how town officials should move forward with engaging residents.

“This community engagement process, beginning with community conversations and producing a formal report, is the best way to involve all Vienna residents in building a more just model for public safety,” the petition says.

Megha Karthikeyan, another person behind the petition, said that though the money from the budget must be dedicated toward town infrastructure growth, there is room for interpretation in this purpose.

“We think there are a lot of creative ways to use that money,” she said, adding other choices include a sexual assault resource center and a more welcoming community center design without a shooting range design.

“Making such a significant budgeting decision regarding community safety mandates the input of all constituents, especially that of Brown and Black people, whose insights and lived experiences must be heard by Town leadership,” the petition says.

While the organizers say the petition is a good start, both Grage and Karthikeyan said that it’s going to take other types of effort to attract the attention of the Town Council — including showing up to the virtual town hall meetings, asking difficult questions and directly expressing concern.

“The town has told us they are going to reply to our petition on July 6,” Grage said. Until then, they are going to keep finding ways to get more attention to their cause.

Image courtesy Kelly Jiang

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