Police Civilian Review Panel meets new executive director

The Fairfax County Police Civilian Review Panel’s first executive director, Steven Richardson (courtesy Fairfax County)

Fairfax County’s Police Civilian Review Panel approved its annual report Monday (Feb. 28) and hosted its new executive director for his first meeting in the role.

Appointed by the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors on Feb. 22, Richardson is the first executive director for the panel, which was established in 2016 to review completed investigations of complaints alleging police abuse of authority or serious misconduct.

Steven Richardson introduced himself at the meeting, held by phone call-in, to those on the panel who were not a part of his interview process to become its first executive director. The panel .

Richardson described his professional experience as “somewhat bifurcated,” with about half of his time spent in public policy and government and half in law enforcement.

He worked as a legislative director for the New York City Council before joining the New York City Police Department. His decade-long tenure encompassed various assignments, including in investigations and patrol, he said. Following that, he moved to Chicago and worked with the Cook County Sheriff’s Office as a project manager.

According to the county’s news release, he also worked as operations captain for the George Washington University Police Department, supervising all investigations, detectives, patrol services, and personnel, and reviewing all use-of-force incidents. Richardson also served as a criminal magistrate in North Carolina.

“I have relatively extensive background,” he told the panel. “I have investigated cases or allegations of police misconduct as well as corrections officers’ misconduct.”

He is particularly excited to engage with the community and represent the panel, he said,  experience as a New York City Police officer showed him how police interact with people of different identities and backgrounds. He believes training is key to avoiding negative encounters.

“Things that would happen in Central Park North, which was Harlem, would never happen in Central Park South — Fifth Avenue, [to] wealthier individuals on Central Park South,” he said.

Those residents were more likely to have the police commissioner’s number on speed dial, while the north side was “arguably overpoliced, underserved and the community was at odds with the police department,” he said.

He said long-running rumors about different areas in New York City skewed police officers’ perceptions.

“Things that aren’t rooted in truth become a young officer’s mindset,” he said.

The creation of the executive director position was one of the highlights of the past year, along with working with new county Police Chief Kevin Davis, which was described as a positive experience, according to the panel’s 2021 annual report.

The all-volunteer panel previously relied on the Office of the Independent Police Auditor for staff support, but struggled with a growing workload. It requested the position in the 2020 annual report.

“The new Executive Director will be empowered to organize more public outreach events, to set up more opportunities for the Panel to interface with the rank-and-file of the FCPD, and to liaise with Chief Davis and leaders of the Internal Affairs Bureau (IAB) on a more regular basis,” the 2021 report reads.

According to the report, the panel received 14 initial complaints and 14 requests for review last year. Of those, it brought 13 complaints to conclusion, with two producing full review reports.

The panel typically presents its annual report to the Board of Supervisors’ public safety committee a few months later, panel Chairman Jimmy Bierman said in his last meeting in the role. Dirck Hargraves began his term as chair Tuesday (March 1).