In response to the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors’ announcement of an ad hoc commission to review police department practices and policies, the citizens group Justice for John Geer released the following statement:
Fairfax County needs a permanent, effective civilian oversight board that is independent of police influence, trusted by the public, supported by the board, and tasked with a broad review over all practices and policies relating to law enforcement activity.
We didn’t get that today. What we got was a panel hastily thrown together in an effort to provide political cover rather than real reform.
The formation of the ad hoc commission exhibits the lack of transparency and disrespect for the public that lies at the heart of police misbehavior. Comments by Supervisors Herrity, Hudgins, and Frey confirm that the ad hoc commission was formed by Bulova without involvement from other Board members or the public at large.
The make-up of the ad hoc commission appears designed to frustrate independent civilian review and meaningful reforms.
It is shocking and unacceptable that representatives of law enforcement are so numerous and unaffiliated civilians so few. The Police Department has ample opportunities to access and influence Supervisors directly and indirectly. Concerned citizens do not. Citizens deserve an oversight body independent from police pressure.
It is disappointing that no one representing the family of Sal Culosi is on the commission. We are told Sal Culosi’s father, Sal Culosi, Sr., requested to be on the commission but was denied.
It is surprising and disappointing that none of the lawyers named to the commission stands out as a spokesperson for the vigilant protection of civil liberties.
The inclusion of David Rohrer in any capacity is a conflict of interest and an insult to the public’s intelligence. Rohrer was the police chief from 2004 to 2012. During his tenure, Sal Culosi and David Masters were shot and killed by police. After both those shootings, the Police Department adopted the same secrecy and hostility to transparency and accountability that we have witnessed in the wake of John Geer’s shooting. Purported “reforms” from Rohrer’s tenure clearly failed to prevent the unnecessary shooting of John Geer. As Deputy County Executive for Public Safety, Rohrer currently oversees the police department.
The responsibilities of the ad hoc commission are insufficiently broad. Justice requires not just transparency but accountability, which is entirely absent from the commission’s responsibilities. True civilian oversight requires a broad, comprehensive purview over law enforcement practices and policies, with a Board of Supervisors committed to meaningful reform.
We object to the inscrutable method by which the ad hoc commission was formed. We object to the makeup of the commission, which should offer civilian oversight and guidance independent of law enforcement influence. We object to the too-narrow purview of the commission. And we object to Chair Bulova’s refusal today to allow for a period of public comment on the formation of the commission.
The need for reform has been longstanding. The creation of an important oversight body should have happened long ago in a straightforward and competent manner. Chair Bulova has failed as a leader and should resign as chair of the Board of Supervisors.
Other members of the board, if they are to regain the public’s trust, need to prove their personal commitment to pursuing meaningful reforms as required by justice and their oaths to the public.