Fairfax Co. commission to tackle use-of-force policies

FAIRFAX, Va. – A new task force will examine use of force and community relations policies for the Fairfax County Police Department as an 18-month-old investigation into a fatal police shooting that prompted the probe remains open.

The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors agreed to create the commission on a divided 10-3 vote Tuesday. Those who voted against the proposal expressed concerns that the commission could interfere with the ongoing investigation into the death of John Geer, who was shot by county Officer Adam Torres in the entrance to Geer’s Springfield home in August 2013.

The county first released Torres’ name in January under a court order. Federal prosecutors are now investigating the shooting and Geer’s family has sued the the police department and Torres.

County board members also expressed new concerns over the lack of communication from the county attorney’s office, led by David Bobzien. The board says Bobzien did not pass on a request from county prosecutor Ray Morrogh for a meeting after police refused to turn over files related to the Geer case.

Several supervisors also said they were concerned about the advice at least some police brass believed they got from the county attorney, which deterred them from conducting thorough internal investigations in cases that could lead to civil suits.

Chairwoman Sharon Bulova says the 25-member commission will help restore public trust. It will include experts, law enforcement, community members and others. Dates and times for the commission meetings have not yet been set.

She says that the county needs to make changes even as the Geer investigation continues.

The commission is charged with reviewing the police department’s practices and policies for use-of-force training, threat assessments and internal affairs. The commission will also review Virginia’s public information law as well as the role of the police department’s public information office and the department’s relationship with the county prosecutor’s office.

The commission is expected to submit a report to the board by October 1.

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