Fairfax Co. police chief: Use-of-force changes ‘saved lives’

November 29, 2020 | Fairfax County's Police Chief warns county leaders not to repeat police body camera pilot program failures of other cities (WTOP's Kristi King reports)

FAIRFAX, Va. — Fairfax County has approved 88.1 percent of the recommendations to improve policing that followed the fatal police shooting of an unarmed man, county leaders were told at a Tuesday meeting.

John Geer was fatally shot in the doorway of his Springfield, Virginia, home in August 2013 by former Police Officer Adam Torres, who pleaded guilty to manslaughter.

After that, an ad hoc police commission made hundreds of recommendations to the county to improve policing.

All 202 of the recommendations have been addressed in some manner, Deputy County Executive David M. Rohrer told the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Public Safety Committee.

For example, an independent auditor and civilian review board of Fairfax County police actions have been approved and are awaiting staff or appointments.

Fairfax County Police Chief Ed Roessler said the department’s new use-of-force policy already has saved lives. He touted Tasers and foam bullets as success stories of the past 18 months.

“We have saved lives — there have been events all of you know about where legally we could have pulled the trigger. It would have been lawful but awful,” Roessler said.

Once all the department’s officers have been trained and certified in the new use-of-force policy, it will take effect officially. The planned “effective date” is Jan. 21, 2017.

Roessler said Fairfax County’s use-of-force policy and training now leads the nation.

“As we speak, some of the change team staff are in another state training other jurisdictions,” Roessler noted.

The issue of creating a pilot program for police body-worn cameras will be discussed by county leaders next month, on Jan. 31, 2017.

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