Fairfax Co. panel updates residents on reforms after Geer’s shooting death

WASHINGTON — Recommendations from a police commission made in the wake of the 2013 shooting death of Fairfax County resident John Geer continue to move forward.

A diversion program recommended after Geer’s death has led more than 300 residents to be diverted to mental health treatment facilities instead of being put in jail. It was just one recommendation discussed at a Monday night meeting with County Board of Supervisors Chairman Sharon Bulova and Public Safety Committee Chairman John Cook.

Geer was killed in the doorway of his Springfield, Virginia, home in August 2013 by former police officer Adam Torres, who pleaded guilty to manslaughter.

The “Diversion First” program received an expansion after the county was able to put some additional money into the budget so that it could provide additional police officers and additional mental health professionals, Bulova said.

“So when folks are responding to a case where someone is having a psychotic breakdown and can be diverted into treatment rather than taken to the jail,” she said.

Bulova says most of the 202 recommendations have already been implemented such as the creation of a civilian police review panel, which is set to begin its work shortly but is currently undergoing training.  She says the nine-member panel will review complaints from citizens of possible serious police misconduct or abuse of power.

Another key recommendation was the creation of an independent police auditor who works for the board of supervisors. Richard Schott began the new job on April 17, 2017, after spending 27 years working for the FBI.

Schott will review and monitor internal investigations of police department officer-involved shootings, in-custody deaths and use of force cases.  Bulova says the job of the independent police auditor will be to, “make sure things are moving along in a positive way.”

Bulova is hopeful the changes will help build trust between the community and the police department.

“The community has held our feet to the fire in making sure the recommendations have received the follow through,” she said. “We will continue to provide follow up and continue to communicate with the community.”

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