Police Challenge Some Professional Recommendations

Chief gives status implementation to supervisors.

Police policies, training, and procedures in 2023 are changing at a national level in terms of de-escalation tactics, appropriate use of force, foot pursuit policies, shooting at vehicles, and approaching people in mental health crises, to mention a few. In Police Chief Keven Davis’s presentation to the full Fairfax County Board of Supervisors at the Safety and Security Committee Meeting on Oct. 3, he chose a subset from the total of 315 police reform practices and policy recommendations offered to the county police department by two groups since May of this year to assess and respond to the status of implementation.

Davis explained to the supervisors that the FCPD took a lot of time and carefully considered each recommendation that the PERF (Police Executive Research Forum) and the Matrix Working Group made to it this year. “We're very pleased to note that FCPD has either adopted, partially or in totality, or is currently in the process of adopting the vast majority of recommendations" [306 out of 315]. PERF is a nationally accredited law enforcement agency focused on police research and policy organization. Among other things, it conducts requested reviews of police departments with a full listing of recommendations and actions.

A discussion and question-and-answer session with the supervisors would follow the chief’s presentation. Supervisor Rodney Lusk (D), committee chair, said, “We’re not going to be able to address all the recommendations, but he will give us an update on those included in the report today.” A follow-up session will occur regarding recommendations by the matrix group. According to staff, the pending draft document on those recommendations should be available in the next two to three weeks, before the end of October.

According to Davis, the status of “13 of the 15” recommendations made to the FCPD by PERF had been either adopted, partially or in totality, or currently in the process of being adopted. The two recommendations that do not meet those metrics include #15, “requiring officers to capture all calls that include some type of mental health or behavioral health component in its Records Management System. Further, FCPD should use a designation other than ‘mental case’ — such as ‘mental health’ or ‘mental/behavioral health’—to categorize these calls.” 

Davis said that the department is currently evaluating how to better record this data in its new Records Management System.

The other PERF recommendation the department is not implementing include #7, “FCPD should update its use-of-force policy to indicate that force may not be used against a person unless, under the totality of the circumstances, that force is necessary and proportional."

Davis said the change would contradict the “Graham v. Connor" case standard as decided by the Supreme Court in 1989.  According to Davis, the case recognizes officers do not need to use the minimum amount of force in a given situation but rather must use a force option that is reasonable based upon the totality of the circumstances known to the officer at the time force was used.

Responses to Recommendations by PERF

Davis ticked off the department's responses to PERF recommendations, adding how the department adjusted policies, practices, and procedures as necessary. Davis began with Recommendation #1, which he considered “by far the gold standard on the use of force training deescalation diffusion throughout the country.”

#1: In process: FCPD is completing mandatory ICAT training, [Integrate, Communications, Assessment, and Tactics]. It is a guide that PERF developed for defusing critical incidents.

#2: FCPD is "seeking,” Davis said, to reinforce ICAT with the Critical-Decision Making Model [CDM]. According to PERF, it is the backbone of ICAT. To collect information; assess situations, threats, and risks; consider police powers and agency policy; identify options; determine the best course of action; and act, review, and re-assess. 

#3: PERF recommended that the department "require or recommend” first-line supervisors to respond to mental-health-related crisis calls. Davis said ”FCPD General Order 609 (Mental Health Calls for Service) requires that “whenever possible."

#4 The department is committed to the co-responder program and Critical Intervention Training. Will the department “allocate the requisite officers needed to support this initiative as the Fairfax-Falls Church Community Services Board makes officers and field clinicians available”?

#5  PERF recommends that FCPD conduct sentinel event reviews of police shooting incidents and in-custody deaths. The April 2023 FCPD report states, “FCPD is currently in the process of reviewing this recommendation ... to determine practicality and feasibility.”

#6; See #7. Add “proportionality” to the definitions in its use-of-force policy. 

#7: Not implemented.

#8: Update the policy on shooting into vehicles. According to Davis, the current policy language of General Order 540 prohibiting officers from using deadly force at, into, or from moving vehicles is significantly clearer and more restrictive on what officers are permitted or not permitted to do than PERF’s recommendation. FCPD prohibits officers from shooting at, into, or from moving vehicles unless there is a threat of serious injury or death to the officer or another person. Additionally, the policy requires officers to move out of the path of an oncoming vehicle whenever possible and strictly prohibits them from intentionally placing themselves within the path of an oncoming vehicle.

#9: All operational FCPD members and specialized units are now equipped with body-worn cameras and required to utilize them by department policy.

#10: Answering PERF’s recommendation that when conducting an administrative investigation of a police shooting incident, Internal Affairs detectives should examine all related actions to determine whether personnel acted according to departmental policy, Davis responded that the FCPD Internal Affairs Bureau conducts thorough, complete, and objective investigations into all allegations against department members.

#11: According to Davis FCPD, it now meets the 45-day time limit for convening the department’s Performance Review Board in the aftermath of any reviewable critical incident. As noted in the department’s May report, the bureau had inadvertently not deliberated on some of the reviewable officer involved shooting incidents.

#12: Given the recommendation that a tactical debrief take place no later than 72 hours after a police critical incident or in-custody death, according to Davis in his May report, the Standard Operating Procedure 12-045 (Police Affiliated Critical Incidents) will be further revised in the near future to formalize this ongoing practice.

#13: Executive and administrative staff meet along with agency SMEs, the morning of the next workday following a critical incident.

#14: Responding to the recommendation that the department should adopt a foot pursuit policy, one that guides officers when deciding whether the risks inherent in pursuing a subject on foot weigh against the alternatives or ultimately justify a pursuit, FCPD adopted a foot pursuit data collection policy applicable to all sworn Department members, but not a foot pursuit policy.

#15: Not implemented