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FCPD reports declines in use of force complaints, vehicle pursuits

Two Fairfax County Police Department cars are shown parked outside an apartment complex in McNair (staff photo by David Taube)

Vehicle pursuits have come to a near halt amid new rules to avoid overly aggressive policing that can endanger people and communities.

The Fairfax County Police Department recently reported that vehicle pursuits went from above 100 per year in 2019-2021 to one per month as of May 17.

Board of Supervisors Chair Jeff McKay said the data debunks the notion that aggressive policing leads to crime reduction. Police said none of those pursuits involved injuries.

During a public safety committee meeting for the Board of Supervisors on May 17, police also listed stats showing a decline in use of force complaints, from 19 in 2019 to 11 in 2020 and five in 2021. A presentation suggested no such complaints occurred this year at the time of the presentation.

The declines come as the department’s new police chief, Kevin Davis, started the position May 3, 2021, and the county works to address problems with policing. A University of Texas at San Antonio study showed that Fairfax County police used high levels of force at twice the rate against Black people than compared to white people.

But the public safety committee meeting providing no information about whether use of force incidents are still occurring disproportionately based on race. The use of force study spanned from 2016 through 2018.

A use of force committee, however, has helped address whether 59 recommendations from the study should be implemented, and the department has carried out 37 changes and has another 10 in the process of implementation, public safety committee chair and Lee District Supervisor Rodney Lusk said.

“This member of the Board of Supervisors is extraordinarily delighted and pleased by your success with regard to the recommendations,” he said. “The percentage that you’ve been able to achieve within the timeline that you’ve been given is impressive.”

Other department reforms have included providing every officer who is at the rank of second lieutenant or below with a Taser, a shift from last year when they would only carry one when the tools were available, Davis said.

The department also began a pilot project to use BolaWrap, a device about the size of a smartphone that deploys a cord around a person for restraint. Since the beginning in April, FCPD has used it three times as of May 17.

Further details on those incidents and future plans after the pilot weren’t immediately available.

“It’s the latest greatest iteration of how we can safely take people into custody,” Davis said. “It’s a restraint tool.”

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