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FCPD should update training, collect data to address use-of-force concerns, committee says

Fairfax County police are implementing new training to address use-of-force concerns (via FCPD/Facebook)

The Fairfax County Police Department should implement new training and data collection practices to improve its culture around the use of force, a committee of appointed volunteers says.

The Use of Force Advisory Committee presented recommendations to the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors’ safety and security committee on Tuesday (March 1) based on a study conducted by the University of Texas at San Antonio.

While many of the study’s recommendations were accepted, the committee modified some of them to encourage cultural changes that it believes will be good for the department and the community.

“Without cultural change, internally and externally, policy change will not make meaningful and impactful improvements for a safer community and a safer Fairfax,” committee co-chair Yolonda Earl-Thompson said, emphasizing the importance of both FCPD leaders and officers embracing reform.

In addition to documenting uses of physical force by officers and resistance by citizens, the committee says police should gather data on the use of de-escalation techniques and their effectiveness, officers’ attempts to halt or prevent a use of force by colleagues, and other relevant variables.

It also recommends tracking instances where use of deadly force is authorized to reduce the risk of selection bias.

Released in June, the UTSA study examined 1,360 use-of-force cases from January 2016 to December 2018. It found that 42% of cases involved Black individuals, compared to 38% for white people, and Black people were 1.8 times more likely to have a weapon pointed at them by police.

The committee disagreed with the study’s recommendation that officers regularly rotate out of “high crime” patrol areas and district stations to avoid burnout, arguing that officers should be familiar with the specific community they serve to help build trust.

After the presentation, Fairfax County Police Chief Kevin Davis announced that the FCPD has adopted the ICAT training guide recommended by the UTSA study and will begin to train officers beginning in April 2022.

Chief Davis also announced that the department would begin training with non-lethal tools, such as BolaWraps, which can restrain suspects with minimum force.

Braddock District Supervisor James Walkinshaw suggested the department implement a program to teach officers about Fairfax County’s history, especially when it comes to generational trauma.

Police should use a “trauma-informed perspective” that understands the experiences of people of color, immigrants and undocumented residents, individuals with behavioral health or substance-use challenges, and other communities most affected by police violence, Earl-Thompson said.

“So many of the facts of that — from slavery through Jim Crow, Reconstruction, redlining, etcetera, etcetera — have been erased from so many of our history books,” Walkinshaw said. “If our officers got that, they would really be ahead of the game in terms of understanding the community.”

Davis implemented a similar program while serving as police commissioner in Baltimore. He agreed that it could be invaluable to graduates coming out of the academy.

Photo via FCPD/Facebook

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