(Updated at 12:30 p.m.) A law clerk and former D.C. police officer who also coaches freshman football at Herndon High School has launched a primary challenge against Fairfax County Sheriff Stacey Kincaid.
Kelvin Garcia announced yesterday (Wednesday) that he will campaign for the Democratic nomination, positioning himself as a more progressive alternative to Kincaid.
Kincaid confirmed to FFXnow in December that she will seek reelection. She became the county’s first female sheriff when she initially took office after winning a special election in 2013.
“To me, there are two sides right now to the Democratic Party on the ballot this year,” Garcia said, as reported by the Washington Post. “There’s the old-world moderate and the progressive who wants to build a future for everyone.”
In addition to serving as an assistant freshman football coach for the Herndon Hornets, Garcia works as a law clerk for the firm Liberty Legal LC after spending a decade as a D.C. police officer from 2008 to 2019, according to his LinkedIn page.
According to the Post, Garcia decided to campaign for sheriff based on concerns about Kincaid’s management of the Fairfax County Adult Detention Center, stating that he would make the first 30 minutes of inmates’ phone calls to family members free and house individuals based on their gender identity rather than sex.
The sheriff’s office currently classifies inmates based on their genitals.
A transgender woman sued the sheriff’s office in November 2020, alleging that she experienced discrimination and harassment while incarcerated at the county jail. A federal appeals court panel ruled in August that gender dysphoria is a condition protected by the Americans with Disabilities Act, allowing the lawsuit to continue.
In a press release issued today (Thursday), Garcia said the county needs to “invest in people as they leave our facilities to break the revolving door that brings them right back” into the criminal justice system.
“Our system has let too many people fall through the cracks for far too long, and these problems start at the top,” Garcia said. “It’s time for a fresh perspective in Fairfax County — a perspective that will support every member of our community and leave no one behind. I’ll be honored to lead that effort.”
The primary election will be held on June 20, with general elections on Nov. 7.
Fairfax County Commonwealth’s Attorney Steve Descano is gearing up for what may be the most heated local election race in 2023.
The first-term chief prosecutor, who defeated a longtime incumbent in 2019 on the strength of a progressive platform, is planning to seek reelection next year, a representative for Descano confirmed to FFXnow.
An official announcement is expected to come soon, another spokesperson said.
Over the last three years, Descano has championed reform policies including a diversion program for those who commit non-violent crimes, increased transparency of bond hearing data, and an end to cash bail.
Like Arlington’s Parisa Dehghani-Tafti and Loudoun’s Buta Biberaj, who were also elected in 2019 as reform advocates, Descano has been accused of being “soft on crime” and mishandling certain cases, with those involving sexual violence receiving particular scrutiny. He was also the focus of two recall campaigns last year.
In a statement to FFXnow, Descano touts his record as a “progressive” who has helped the county become “the safest jurisdiction of its size anywhere in the country, saying he’s been “encouraged by many over the last year to continue this work.”
I plan on making an announcement soon regarding the 2023 election. Since first being elected in 2019 I have worked each day to deliver safety and justice for our community. I’m proud of what we have accomplished, delivering progressive criminal justice reform including investments in “next generation” diversion programs, increased use of Veterans Treatment and Mental Health dockets, creating a Red Flag Law team aimed at getting guns out of someone’s hands who poses a danger, and leading a more transparent office by the launch of a public Data Dashboard on our work.
These and other reforms have helped deliver a justice system led by our values all while making Fairfax County the safest jurisdiction of its size anywhere in the country. I have been encouraged by many over the last year to continue this work. I am grateful for that encouragement and also for the widespread community support that has resulted in us having over $100,000 in campaign funds on hand one full year prior to the next election. This shows the strength and breadth of the support from those that want to keep Fairfax County’s justice system moving forward.
Four years ago, Decano was part of a wave of Northern Virginia progressive prosecutors to be elected as their localities’ top law enforcement officer.
In Arlington, Dehghani-Tafti launched her reelection campaign late last month. Biberaj hasn’t yet declared her intentions for next year.
Fairfax County Sheriff Stacey Kincaid is also planning to run for reelection in 2023, she told FFXnow by email, though she didn’t elaborate on her reasoning.
Kincaid was first elected in 2013 in a special election, becoming the first woman to lead the office in its nearly three centuries of existence. She was reelected in 2015 and 2019, so this will be her fourth time running. Read More
(Updated at 3:05 p.m.) A transgender woman’s lawsuit alleging discrimination at the Fairfax County Adult Detention Center will be allowed to move forward in a potentially landmark decision in the fight for trans rights.
Former inmate Kesha Williams can pursue her complaint arguing that the harassment she experienced at the county jail violated the Americans with Disabilities Act, a U.S. Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals panel ruled in an opinion released today (Tuesday).
The decision overturns a lower court’s dismissal of Williams’s lawsuit, which was filed on Sept. 20 and details her incarceration from November 2018 to May 2019.
“Kesha Williams faced horrible treatment at the Fairfax County Adult Detention Center,” Joshua Erlich, Williams’s attorney, said. “We’re thankful that the Fourth Circuit ruled in her favor and we are excited to get back into court to vindicate Kesha’s rights.”
Williams, now a resident of Silver Spring, alleges in her lawsuit that the jail housed her with men after deputies learned that she is transgender and had not undergone genital surgery, The Washington Post reported in May.
Williams reported that the bras and other clothes she was initially given were taken away, she was misgendered and harassed by deputies as well as inmates, and a nurse delayed or neglected to provide the hormone treatments she had received for the past 15 years.
The inability to regularly access the medicine Williams was prescribed to treat gender dysphoria led to “significant mental and emotional distress,” Judge Diana Gribbon Motz recounted in her opinion, which was also backed by Judge Pamela Harris.
Fairfax County Sheriff Stacey Kincaid and the other defendants have argued that Williams has no grounds to seek relief, because the ADA doesn’t protect “gender identity disorders not resulting from physical impairments.” A U.S. District Court judge agreed and granted a motion to dismiss the case.
In her majority opinion, Motz says that argument reflects an outdated understanding of gender identity. Gender dysphoria is now recognized by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders as a distinct clinical condition that some, but not all, trans people experience.
“While the older DSM pathologized the very existence of transgender people, the recent DSM-5’s diagnosis of gender dysphoria takes as a given that being transgender is not a disability and affirms that a transgender person’s medical needs are just as deserving of treatment and protection as anyone else’s,” Motz wrote.
With the appeals court’s ruling, Kincaid could now seek a rehearing before a larger panel of judges or appeal the case to the U.S. Supreme Court. Otherwise, the lawsuit will be sent back to the district court, where it could eventually go to trial, according to Erlich.
“We will not be commenting on a case that is still pending,” the Fairfax County Sheriff’s Office said.
The Fourth Circuit is the first federal appeals court to rule specifically on whether gender dysphoria constitutes a disability protected by the ADA. While the lawsuit focuses on the treatment of trans individuals in jail, the outcome could have broader implications at a time when states are restricting access to gender-affirming health care.
“This is not limited to individuals who are incarcerated; any individual seeking accommodations for gender dysphoria will be affected by this ruling,” Erlich said. “This applies in employment, public accommodations, and in any other context in which the ADA provides disability protections.”
A program that enlists Fairfax County Adult Detention Center inmates for litter pick-up, landscaping and other maintenance services will be put on hold.
The Fairfax County Sheriff’s Office told county leaders on June 16 that it will temporarily suspend its Community Labor Force (CLF) effective Sept. 12 “due to critically low staffing levels,” according to the sheriff’s office.
“By doing this, the agency will be able to redirect staff to the core functions,” Fairfax County Sheriff’s Office spokesperson Andrea Ceisler said.
The office is currently down 72 sworn positions, or 14.5% of its staff, according to Ceisler.
The agency reported in April that it had a vacancy rate of nearly 15%, despite additional recruiting efforts. The fiscal year 2023 budget that the Board of Supervisors approved in May included salary increases for sheriff’s office staff and other public safety workers, starting on July 1.
According to the sheriff’s office, the CLF provides public services that would otherwise require county staff or contractors:
The CLF services over 300 county bus stops, shelters and park-and-rides by collecting the trash, doing light landscaping, removing graffiti and performing general maintenance when needed. The crews service many of the county’s stormwater management facilities, including over 1,300 dry ponds that temporarily hold and filter water in neighborhoods and at businesses. They also do landscaping, litter pick-up and emergency snow removal on public lands.
The force consists of work crews of up to five “well-screened” incarcerated individuals, each overseen by a deputy. Participants can reduce their jail time by volunteering for the program, which currently has 11 inmates.
Alternatives Needed for Sign Removals
Due to the CLF’s impending halt, the county board directed staff yesterday (Tuesday) to review potential options for handling the affected services — specifically an effort to remove signs from street curbs, medians and other areas in the public right of way.
The county has relied on the CLF to remove thousands of signs from 100 designated roads under a July 1, 2013 agreement between the sheriff’s office, Board of Supervisors, the Department of Code Compliance and the Virginia Department of Transportation. In 2016 alone, the group collected 23,264 signs, according to the sheriff’s office.
“The number of signs in our right of way today compared to what we used to deal with has made a significant difference not only in visibility, but in public safety, certainly for the environment and litter clean-ups,” Board of Supervisors Chairman Jeff McKay said. “We cannot afford to have a gap, not even for one day in this service.” Read More
(Updated at 4:45 p.m.) A 61-year-old inmate at the Fairfax County Adult Detention Center died yesterday (Monday) in a hospital after “a medical emergency,” Fairfax County police said.
Glenn Myer was transported to Fairfax Hospital on Friday (July 15) for a medical emergency, according to a Fairfax County Police Department press release. He was in the ICU when he died from the medical emergency, police said.
“Mr. Myer was suffering from a terminal illness at the time of his death,” the release said. “Preliminarily, there are no signs of foul play.”
The Office of the Chief Medical Examiner will determine the exact manner and cause of death. Police are investigating the incident as they do for all Sheriff’s Office in-custody deaths.
Myer was arrested in December 2020 on charges of aggravated malicious wounding, stemming from an incident where police say he shot another person in his apartment in the Pimmit Hills area. He also shot at responding officers, police said.
“The officers discharged their firearms striking Myer and ending the threat,” police said. “Myer was transported to Fairfax Hospital immediately after the event.”
After he was released, Myer was charged and taken to the detention center, where he has remained since. He was also facing charges of of attempted capital murder of a law enforcement officer, attempted first-degree murder, and four counts of the use of a firearm in the commission of a felony.
Additional raises are coming for Fairfax County government employees, specifically firefighters, police officers and other uniformed public safety workers.
The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors plans to allocate $6.1 million in the upcoming budget to give a step increase to certain public safety workers hired on or before June 30, 2021. The proposal is part of a mark-up package that will go before the board tomorrow (Tuesday).
“This adjustment, which targets job classes that have seen higher levels of resignations, almost exclusively benefits employees at the first two ranks in the respective departments,” the county said in the pre-markup budget draft.
At a budget policy committee meeting on Friday (April 22), staff told Springfield District Supervisor Pat Herrity that nearly a third of public safety workers will receive the additional step increase, which along with other raises would translate into 14.01% increases in compensation. Similar to previous remarks, Herrity said the county should devote more than $6.1 million to the increased compensation.
The pre-markup draft also gives the step increase to the sheriff’s office, though vacancies and recruiting difficulties in the county have extended beyond public safety.
Presented in February, the advertised budget for fiscal year 2023, which starts July 1, called for:
- 4.01% market rate adjustment raises for county workers
- Performance, merit and longevity increases across the board
- A new 25-year-longevity raise for uniformed public safety workers, who got an average pay increase of 7.86%
Other county government workers would get 6.16% salary increases under the advertised plan, according to the county, and the board says it recognizes that recruitment and retention challenges remain.
Board of Supervisors Chairman Jeff McKay said in a statement today (Monday) that he wanted to ensure his budget proposal strategically targeted areas where employees were leaving.
Not all public servants would get the changes they asked for, though.
Despite a public defenders’ request for equal pay compared to prosecutors, the revised and likely final budget will not include funding for that. Last year, the county extended 15% salary supplements for state probation and parole officers as well as staff in the Office of the Public Defender.
“If the state were to appropriately compensate these employees, the need for County-funded salary supplements would be eliminated,” McKay said, reading from the pre-markup budget draft. “However, despite the County’s best efforts — and despite the availability of state funding — the state has not taken action to address pay concerns of its own employees, most notably those in the Office of the Public Defender. The funding of this office is inherently a state responsibility.”
He added he has “spent significant time over the past couple days talking to our members of the General Assembly delegation” to address state funding for the public defender’s office.
He shared that state employees, which include public defenders, are slated to receive at least a 5% salary increase. McKay noted that the General Assembly budget is still under consideration, and more adjustments could occur.
For General District Court staff overall, the advertised budget earmarks a 4.01% market rate adjustment uptick as well as performance and longevity raises. That would increase county spending from $1.72 million to $1.8 million.
Meanwhile, the advertised budget will decrease county expenses for the Office of the Commonwealth’s Attorney from $6.96 million to $6.75 million.
The revised budget, which will be adopted on May 10, also calls for a property tax rate of $1.11 per $100 of assessed value and other changes.
Fairfax County’s work release program remains shut down due to the pandemic, keeping one option for inmates off of the table for a little over two years.
Due to concerns about the transmission of COVID-19, the county’s sheriff’s office says its is unclear when and if the program will resume. The program first shut down in March 2020.
“We cannot have inmates going to places of business, potentially being exposed to COVID, and then exposing other inmates when they return at the end of their work shift,” Andrea Ceisler, a spokesperson for the sheriff’s office, told FFXnow.
Even when the Fairfax County Health Department gives the green light, it’s still unclear if the office has enough manpower to staff the program, according to Sheriff Stacey Kincaid.
The office doesn’t have enough resources to screen inmates and potential employers. Ceisler added that monitoring inmates offsite is a “labor intensive” activity.
Its vacancy rate has risen from 11% last year to nearly 15% this month. That’s despite launching a website dedicated to recruiting and establishing a full-time recruiting position.
“A major issue concerns pay,” Ceisler said. “Although our deputy sheriff recruits attend the same Criminal Justice Academy as Police Department recruits, complete the same training side by side, and have several overlapping responsibilities, our deputies are paid less than their police counterparts.”
At most ranks, ranks deputies receive 2.5% less than equivalent police ranks. At the rank of sergeant and second lieutenant, deputies receive 7.5% less.
“The pay disparity impacts recruiting as well as retention,” she said.
Over the last three years, the number of inmates enrolled in the county’s work-release program has decreased significantly.
In 2017, 112 inmates were enrolled, and 44 successfully completed the remainder of their sentence while in the program. In 2019, just 48 inmates were enrolled, though 32 completed the remainder of their sentence.
Electrical Event Caused Chantilly House Fire — “Fire Investigators determined that the fire was accidental in nature and started in the electrical panel box located in the basement. The cause of the fire was an electrical event involving wiring in the electrical panel box.” [FCFRD]
Sheriff’s Office Donates Ballistic Vests to Ukraine — “Due to the dire situation in Ukraine and the scarcity of body armor, the Sheriff’s Office and our Supply section, led by 2nd Lt. Kim, are proud to be able to donate 110 ballistic vests for the Lift Up Ukraine campaign. We hope our equipment will help protect the lives of Ukrainians as they defend their country from the Russian invasion.” [Fairfax County Sheriff Facebook]
Historic Egg Roll in Vienna — From 5:30 – 7 p.m. today, Historic Freeman Store and Museum, 131 Church St., SE, will hold an egg roll. “Families and children 12 and younger are invited to enjoy an old-fashioned egg roll, games, story time and more! The event is presented by Historic Vienna, Inc. and the Town of Vienna. For more information email Lily Widman or call 703-255-6360.” [Town of Vienna]
Lake Accotink Carousel Closed — “Due to maintenance issues, Lake Accotink Park’s carousel will not be open this weekend. However, mini-Golf will be open for normal operations. Also, the lake is now available for private boating.” [Fairfax County Parks]
Some Now Eligible for Second Booster — This week, the FDA authorized, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended, a second booster dose of a COVID-19 vaccine for people who are at least 50 years old; those between 18 and 49 who received the Johnson & Johnson/Janssen vaccine as both their primary dose and booster dose; and those who are 12 years old and older whose immune system is moderately or severely impaired based on disease or medications they are taking. [Fairfax County Emergency Information]
FCPS Highlights Program — “For some FCPS families, the children aren’t the only ones practicing their instruments each night. The FCPS Parent Orchestra, started four years ago, is a chance for parents to learn how to play, connect with their child’s learning, and create new friendships.” [FCPS]
It’s Friday — Mostly cloudy throughout the day. High of 63 and low of 40. Sunrise at 6:54 a.m. and sunset at 7:33 p.m. [Weather.gov]
(Updated at 5:20 p.m.) A new bill that would let Virginia law enforcement use facial recognition technology is headed to the governor’s desk.
Senate Bill 741, which was proposed by Sen. Scott Surovell (D-36), would let local law enforcement agencies use the technology to investigate specific criminal incidents related to certain acts of violence and to identify deceased individuals and victims of online child sexual abuse material.
“The bill would put regulations and restrictions in place along with regular transparency for the use of facial recognition — not just with law enforcement, but also with identifying persons,” Surovell said.
Passed by the Virginia General Assembly earlier this month, the bill was communicated to Gov. Glenn Youngkin last Tuesday (March 22). If signed, the bill would create a model for local law enforcement agencies, which could create their own policies but must meet standards set by the Virginia State Police.
For now at least, the legislative shift doesn’t seem to have inspired any particular interest from Fairfax County’s law enforcement agencies.
“Fairfax County Sheriff’s Office does not possess facial recognition technology and has no plans to acquire or implement such technology,” Fairfax County Sheriff’s Office spokesperson Andrea Ceisler told FFXnow.
County Director of Public Affairs Tony Castrilli said that the Fairfax County Police Department also does not currently use facial recognition technology.
“The legislative process regarding this bill is pending,” he said. “As a result we will not be providing any response at this time.”
Virginia currently has a partial ban on local law enforcement agencies using facial recognition technology. That measure took effect in July 2021.
The partial ban does not extend to the Virginia State Police, and local law enforcement agencies can apply to the state police to use the technology in their cases.
“The only system that has been and is currently in use is the Centralized Criminal Image System, which was procured through DataWorks Plus,” VSP Public Relations Director Corinne Geller said. “CCIS allows criminal justice users to access images for identification purposes as well as perform lineups, witness sessions and facial recognition searches.”
The system lets the VSP compare an unknown image to a database of mugshots of previous arrestees. The software returns a list of candidates, rather than making a one-to-one match. CCIS is contained within the VSP’s Criminal Justice Information Services Division.
Surovell says he developed S.B. 741 to replace the partial ban, arguing that facial recognition technology could help police solve cases more quickly. He specifically cited last year’s so-called “shopping cart killer” investigations as an example when talking to FFXnow.
Other lawmakers fear the bill may contribute to civil rights issues and over-policing.
“When we consider the use of facial recognition technology by law enforcement, the stakes are high because a mistake could mean that you deny justice for a victim and you take away an innocent person’s freedom,” Del. Kathy Tran (D-42) said. “The research is clear — women and people of color, particularly Black and Asian people, have greatly elevated risks of being falsely identified by this technology.”
Youngkin has until 11:59 p.m. on April 11 to sign SB 741 into law. If he does, the Virginia State Police would be required to develop a policy for the technology’s use by Jan. 1, 2023.
Photo via FCPD/Facebook
(updated at 4:30 p.m.) Police identified the second man who died at the Fairfax County Detention Center this week as the allegedly unlicensed masseuse who was charged with sexually assaulting a woman at an Annandale clinic.
Kyung Pil Chang, 55, of Haymarket was being held at the jail without bond on four felony charges related to a sexual assault at an Annandale location reported on Jan. 25. Chang was found unresponsive in quarantine housing at the jail around 4:25 p.m. yesterday (Tuesday). After medical staff and deputies rendered life-saving efforts, City of Fairfax Fire and Rescue pronounced him dead at 4:49 p.m.
“This morning, the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner conducted an autopsy. Preliminarily, there are no signs of foul play,” FCPD said in a press release. “Our detectives are coordinating with the Fairfax County Sheriff’s Office to gather the facts and circumstances surrounding this death.”
According to the Fairfax County Police Department, a woman had reported that Chang fondled and penetrated her while giving her a massage at the Annandale Gerontology Clinic (4216 Evergreen Lane).
“The victim was able to stop the assault, left the business, and reported the incident,” police said in a news release.
Chang turned himself in Friday after police obtained warrants for aggravated sexual battery, object sexual penetration and practicing as an unlicensed masseuse, police said.
Police say Chang was a contractor for “several other businesses” in Fairfax County, and detectives were seeking to identify those locations.
In accordance with both agencies’ policies, the death is under investigation by the Fairfax County Police Department.
This is the second in-custody death that the county jail has seen in as many days. A 65-year-old man identified by police as George Redmond was similarly found unresponsive in his cell on Monday (March 28) and died that day in a hospital.
Prior to that, the last reported inmate death was Christopher Fojt, 30, of Reston, in April 2021.
The sheriff’s office declined to comment on this week’s two deaths, and the police department did not immediately return FFXnow’s request for comment.
Alan Henney and Brandi Bottalico contributed to this report.