Around the Novahood

FAIRFAX POLICE CHIEF RESIGNS

Fairfax County Police Chief Edwin C. Roessler Jr. will step down in February, capping a nearly 8-year run that brought major reforms to Virginia’s largest police department during an era of change in policing. It was also an era marked by controversies. The resignation, which police sources said was in the works for over a year, comes amid criticism of his leadership and complaints that morale is low among rank-and-file officers. All four of the department’s unions issued no-confidence votes in Roessler over the summer and called for his resignation. It also comes at a turbulent moment for law enforcement nationwide, when a number of police chiefs have resigned, retired, or been fired amid a national reckoning over the policing of minority communities. The Fairfax County Police Department, which has roughly 1,400 officers, is among the 40 biggest in the nation.

Roessler’s tenure was marked by a number of controversial events. One such incident came shortly after his elevation to chief, when a Fairfax County police officer shot and killed an unarmed Springfield man who had his hands raised during a 2013 standoff at his home. The slow pace of the investigation and the lack of public information about the shooting sparked widespread criticism of the department and prompted the county to launch an overhaul of department policies. The officer involved in the shooting eventually pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter and was sentenced to a year in jail.

At the same time, Roessler played a key role in implementing reforms, including a citizen review panel, outfitting officers with body-worn cameras, diverting more mentally ill offenders from jail and requiring officers to undergo training in de-escalation tactics. He made officers’ wellness a priority, establishing help for suicidal officers and a K-9 therapy program. In addition, he created a cyber-forensics bureau to harvest evidence employing emerging technologies. 

Roessler was cited for being ahead of the curve on police reform and making some tough, high-profile decisions. One was to publicly release dash-cam video from the department that showed the fatal 2017 shooting of a motorist by the U.S. Park Police after the unarmed Fairfax County man drove away from the scene. Fairfax County police followed the two U.S. Park Police officers involved. Those Park Police officers have since been charged with manslaughter. Another high-profile case involved charges against a White Fairfax County police officer who Tasered a Black man who was disoriented and did not appear to be a threat during a call in the Mount Vernon area in June. That case is ongoing; it has engendered condemnation from the police unions.

Roessler’s successor will need to be well-informed and prepared for a changing environment.

ARLINGTON WOMAN VICTIM OF RAZOR BLADES IN POLITICAL SIGN

The day after Election Day, an Arlington woman taking a Biden-Harris political sign to a family member’s house before beginning to dismantle it was cut by razor blades that had been taped to the sign, suffering minor injuries. Arlington County police have not received reports of similar incidents, but are urging residents to be careful when removing signs. According to the Arlington Democrats, “There is not a single route that has not had some damage to political signs. I would say this is unprecedented for Arlington. This goes beyond the normal sort of loss of signs by teenage kids and the wind.”

She noted that Biden and Harris signs seemed specifically targeted by vandalism and destruction. Vandalism of signs nationwide has been reported. For example, a woman in Maine was suspected of targeting houses displaying Trump yard signs when residents found their signs vandalized and dog feces posted through their letterboxes in September.

There are high hopes for a reduction in such dangerous behavior by vandals in the future. Protecting political signs with razor blades is at the bottom of the list of acceptable advocacy.

PRINCE WILLIAM HONORS PIONEERING BLACK EDUCATOR WITH STATUE

The city of Manassas unveiled a statue recently honoring Jennie Dean, born into slavery, who became a pioneering educator in Prince William County. Dean came to the Washington area and established the Manassas Industrial School for Colored Youth in 1893. The private institution was designed for African American children as a residential institution in Northern Virginia, offering both academic and vocational training “within a Christian setting.” It was dedicated in 1894 in ceremonies led by Frederick Douglass.

More than 130 donors met the $175,000 goal for the project, which includes the plaza surrounding the statue. The project was also funded by a $350,000 capital improvement project appropriation. Fundraising continues for phase two of the new memorial, which will include connected walking paths, interpretive signage, and an amphitheater. Efforts to build a memorial to Dean began in 1984, when the City of Manassas Historical Committee and the Manassas Museum acquired the 4.4 acres for the memorial, then owned by Prince William County Schools.

It is ironic how long it takes to recognize the efforts and contributions of neighbors while so many Confederate monuments to slavery were erected without a second thought.

 

 



Categories: AROUND THE NOVAHOOD, CIVIL RIGHTS, crime and punishment, Issues, Local, police, POLICING, politics, State

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