Fairfax supervisors vote to establish civilian police review panel

Fairfax DUI cruiser

The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors voted 9-to-1 today to establish a Police Civilian Review Panel, as recommended by the Ad Hoc Police Practices Review Commission in its October 2015 final report to the Board of Supervisors.

“Establishing a Police Civilian Review Panel is a historic step in the right direction toward increasing trust and transparency between police and residents,” Chairman Sharon Bulova said. “I am proud of how far we’ve come in implementing recommendations made by the Ad Hoc Commission, and establishing this Panel represents a significant milestone.”

“The Civilian Review Panel will enhance community confidence in the police by ensuring that investigations of allegations of police misconduct are reviewed by independent, qualified citizens,” said Braddock District Supervisor and Public Safety Committee Chairman John Cook.

The Civilian Review Panel will act as another avenue or “portal” for residents to submit complaints concerning allegations of abuse of authority or misconduct by a Fairfax County Police (FCPD) Officer. The panel will also have the authority to request and review completed Police Department internal administrative investigations regarding a civilian complaint against an officer. The panel may hold public meetings to review police administrative investigations and walk through with members of the community how the investigation was conducted, including findings of fact, evidence collected and witness statements. Examples of complaints and cases for the Civilian Review Panel to receive and review may include:

  • The use of abusive, racial, ethnic or sexual language;
  • Harassment or discrimination based on race, color, sex, religion, national origin, marital status, age, familial status, or disability;
  • The reckless endangerment of a detainee or person in custody;
  • Serious violations of Fairfax County or FCPD procedures.

Nine members

The panel will not address potentially criminal use of force or police-involved shootings. Cases of that magnitude would likely involve an investigation by the Commonwealth’s Attorney and would be monitored by the Police Auditor, Bulova and Cook said. The creation of a Police Auditor was also recommended by the Ad Hoc Police Practices Review Commission and established by the Board of Supervisors in September 2016. The position of Police Auditor has since been advertised, and the County will fill the position in the near future.

The Civilian Review Panel will consist of nine members appointed by the Board of Supervisors. Panel members will serve three year terms with a two term limit. All Panel members will be Fairfax County residents and will have some expertise and/or experience relevant to the Panel’s responsibilities. The Board of Supervisors will reach out to businesses, nonprofit groups and other local organizations to nominate potential candidates to serve on the Panel. The Board seeks to create an independent, balanced and fair body to serve as Panel members.

“Fairfax County continues to be the safest jurisdiction of our size in the nation, which is due in no small part to our exemplary law enforcement and public safety officers,” Bulova said. “Police officers put themselves on the line every day to protect and serve the residents of Fairfax County, and I respect and applaud the difficult work they do. The establishment of a Civilian Review Panel is a positive step forward to further promote transparency and openness in community policing. I thank members of the Ad Hoc Police Practices Review Commission for their thoughtful deliberations and recommendations that brought us to this important decision today.”

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Truman Lewis
A former reporter and bureau chief, Truman Lewis has covered presidential campaigns, state politics and stories ranging from organized crime to environmental and consumer protection.