CHANTILLY, Va. — There’s no telling what police officers might see on a daily basis — bar fights, men with chainsaws — so the Fairfax County department is learning how to de-escalate situations before they spiral out of control.
It’s part of the department’s annual training. On Tuesday, officers showed reporters an interactive video simulator, role playing for officers with someone experiencing a mental health crisis, and other training that Chief Ed Roessler says is part of efforts to re-engineer the process on use of force in the department.
The changes are not based on a specific incident, but the department is making big changes after a county officer shot and killed John Geer in the doorway of his Springfield home. A county commission was formed after public outcry over his death.
Fairfax County Board Chairman Sharon Bulova said she expects the commission’s recommendations to be implemented, including the approval this year of a new independent auditor and citizen review panel.
A Board of Supervisors Committee is scheduled to take up the oversight issues in July.
On Tuesday, officers going through the training said Fairfax County Police officers have always wanted to avoid using deadly force whenever possible, with de-escalation classes going back decades.
Other role playing simulations were similar to what had been done in past training, but the new simulator added some extra technological approaches, says Lt. Matt Owens, based at the Sully District Station.
“It’s very realistic, you have interactions with the person on the screen, with the video that’s there in front of you,” he says.
Officers can deploy anything from a baton or Taser up to a regular gun, all in simulated form, if the person in the video does not follow the officers’ commands.