Originally published October 4, 2023 at 06:00p.m., updated October 9, 2023 at 06:55p.m.
Fairfax County police chased and killed Timothy Johnson during a foot pursuit seven months ago; he was suspected of stealing sunglasses. Community leaders, Fairfax NAACP, ACLU People Power, and faith leaders say Fairfax County must prioritize police reform before another death.
On Oct. 2, the Fairfax County NAACP issued an "urgent statement" on behalf of community leaders, condemning Police Chief Davis' rejection of "life-saving measures." According to the release, Timothy Johnson would be alive if the best practice policy had been established earlier this year.
The two-page document states that Davis would share his vision of a “progressive Fairfax police force” in a presentation to the Board of Supervisors the following day, Oct. 3. The Fairfax NAACP, ACLU People Power Fairfax, and faith leaders questioned Davis's position: Do Black lives matter? According to the release, Davis asserted that there are “few areas where consensus has not been reached” on the Police Reform Matrix Working Group (matrix) and the Police Executive Research Forum (PERF).
"Consensus with whom?” the release questions. According to the release, the chief refused to meet with the working group's faith leaders, Fairfax NAACP and ACLU People Power Fairfax, to discuss their concerns. At Tuesday's Safety & Security meeting, Supervisor John Foust asked Chief Davis about the topic in a question-and-answer exchange after the chief's presentation. Foust pressed for the chief's response.
“Have you met with the matrix working group?” Foust questions. “Our work inside the police department has been able to evaluate and respond to the many recommendations,” Davis says.
“I don't understand why matrix [group] and the police didn't get together," says Foust. He adds, "I would ask you to meet with the matrix, work, and see what you can resolve between the two of you."
Davis says, "We wanted to get [the police response] report back to the Board of Supervisors, and that’s what we’ve done."
Foust pushes back, “So you will or will not meet with them [the matrix working group]?”
Davis answers, “I will meet with anybody anytime."
According to the release, Chief Davis is not solely responsible. Police shootings and disparities have increased under this Board of Supervisors, which 'failed to address these problems."
"It has the authority and duty to set public safety policy and must act now. Awaiting newly elected members to take charge is unacceptable."
The release listed five issues the chief ignored that the board must address according to Fairfax NAACP, ACLU People Power, Voices of Black Fairfax and others:
* Use of force: Guns, tasers, and other uses of force were twice as common on Black people in a June 2021 FCPD independent study. Overusing force, especially against people of color, has increased since then. Fairfax has been part of nine police shooting incidents since 2022, six in 2022, and three this year. Four shooting victims died. This is a 300 percent increase from the 10-year 1.5 shooting average.
* Arrest rates: FCPD ignored disparities in arrest rates. Chief Davis says, “FCPD actively monitors arrest trends to promptly identify and correct any evident disparities.” However, Fairfax's data found that Black and Latino residents were 4.2 and 2.9 times more likely, respectively, to be arrested than white residents.
* Non-coproduction: There is no real engagement with communities of color and their advocates on other issues, as well as the matrix group. The chief also prevented advocates and community leaders from meeting with his staff on foot pursuit and data policies.
* Expanding civilian oversight: FCPD and the Fairfax Civilian Review Panel “have had only one disagreement” over six years, so Chief Davis opposes expanding its authority. Fairfax NAACP et al call for expanding the Civilian Review Panel’s power now that the Virginia General Assembly has made that possible. The Fairfax County review panel cannot investigate or make discipline recommendations like the Alexandria and Arlington review panels. PERF also found flaws in FCPD's internal investigation of police shooting incidents.
PERF's foot pursuit recommendations: Chief Davis announced he adopted “a foot pursuit data collection policy.”
"Data collection is not enough. PERF (report pp. 13–15) provided detailed recommendations for when a pursuit is appropriate, as have community advocates," according to the release.
Publicizing the Chief's detailed responses on all recommendations and providing them to the Board is next.
Fairfax NAACP et al call for holding countywide public forums to gather oral and written community input on the matrix working group’s recommendations and other police concerns; co-producing police policies with affected communities and promptly meeting with the matrix members on their recommendations.