Fairfax Co. police chief defends behavior of officers in parade arrest

Fairfax County Police Chief Chief Edwin Roessler is defending his officers' conduct following a violent arrest over the weekend. (Courtesy Fairfax County police)

Warning: Graphic language

WASHINGTON — Following video that shows the arrest of a man at the annual Annandale Parade over the weekend, Fairfax County, Virginia, Police Chief Edwin Roessler defended his officers’ conduct.

“There’s awful events that are unfolding in the streets of America every single day,” Roessler said at a news conference Tuesday. “And it’s our role as law enforcement officers to protect our community and to enforce the law.”

“I’m standing before you to defend the lawful actions of my police officers enforcing the law to protect our community at a parade,” he said. “I can ensure I will remain transparent moving forward by providing updates to the community.”

The video shot by a bystander shows Mike Stark, 49, who writes for the anti-Trump outlet Shareblue Media, recording the arrival of Virginia Republican gubernatorial candidate Ed Gillespie’s bus.

A Fairfax County police officer approaches Stark and tells him to get out of the street and stay on the sidewalk.

Stark backs up a few paces, and the officer begins to walk away, but Stark continues to shout after him, using profanity with both children and adults in earshot.

It’s against the law to curse in public in Fairfax County.

Two officers then arrest Stark, taking him down and pinning him to the ground with the assistance of several other officers.

“That is called disorderly conduct,” Roessler said. “We are law enforcement officers. It’s our role, our mission, our profession to protect our community. There were children and families at this event and we informed the gentleman (Stark) that he was under arrest.”

Roessler pointed out that the take-down technique seen in the video is legal and he asked that the public try to see things from the officer’s perspective.

“He does not know who this gentleman (Stark) is. The gentleman is wearing a hooded sweatshirt. He does not know if this gentleman has a concealed weapon. He does not know what intent this gentleman has — whether it’s to create harm or something else,” Roessler said.

Stark was charged with disorderly conduct and resisting arrest. He’s said that he doesn’t think his arrest was lawful.

Further, he’s said that he believes the Gillespie campaign told police to keep him away because he’s been critical of the Republican candidate.

Roessler’s comments about the arrest come as Fairfax County officials are holding a public meeting Wednesday evening to provide a progress report on the implementation of a commission’s recommendations for changes in the county police department.

The commission was formed after county officials thwarted prosecutors’ investigation into the 2013 death of John Geer, who was shot and killed by police responding to a domestic disturbance call. The officer who shot Geer, Adam Torres, eventually pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter and was sentenced to a year in prison.

The commission recommended multiple reforms, especially in terms of communicating with the public. Wednesday night’s meeting will be attended by Police Chief Edwin Roessler and Board of Supervisors Chairman Sharon Bulova.

The meeting runs from 7:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. at Whitman Middle School Lecture Hall, 2500 Parkers Lane, Alexandria, Virginia.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Will Vitka

William Vitka is a Digital Writer/Editor for WTOP.com. He's been in the news industry for over a decade. Before joining WTOP, he worked for CBS News, Stuff Magazine, The New York Post and wrote a variety of books—about a dozen of them, with more to come.

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