Audit finds Fairfax County police shootings on the rise, but use-of-force complaints down

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The Fairfax County Office of the Independent Police Auditor recently published its annual report, which showed an increase in police shootings but a decrease in use-of-force complaints last year.

The report comes as the police department agreed to have a research forum examine police shootings in the county since the start of 2021.

The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors created the office in 2016 in an effort to increase trust between residents and the police department. The auditor, Richard Schott, must review all death, serious injury, and use-of-force investigations conducted by Fairfax County police.

“The types of force used by FCPD officers in these allegations were varied and included two takedowns, two uses of force to cuff, one brandished firearm, one strike, and one assault,” the report reads.

The report highlighted reviews of incidents that took place from 2019 to 2022. Overall, the office monitored or reviewed 22 police investigations, 13 of the incidents being examined took place in 2022.

It showed a notable uptick in police shootings last year. For example, from 2017 to 2021, the office reviewed eight officer-involved shootings, including the shooting of two domesticated animals.

However, in 2022, the police department had seven police shootings, with only one being a domestic animal. In addition, use-of-force complaints were low, with only one last year.

Reviews into 12 incidents remain open, continuing into this year, and the office will issue public reports upon completion. Out of the eight incidents the office closed last year, five involved using force, two were police shootings, and one involved a patrol dog bite.

Schott found that all eight investigations met the standards of “being complete, thorough, accurate, objective, and impartial,” but three recommendations were made:

Requiring a warning before releasing a patrol service dog.

Adding non-criminal factors when considering whether force was objectively reasonable during a non-criminal situation.

Training on the proper conduct of searches incident to a lawful arrest.

The police department implemented the recommendations.

The report follows the police department’s recent agreement to undergo an independent review of police shootings since the start of 2021.

The department made the announcement the week after the shooting and killing of Timothy McCree Johnson outside Tysons Corner Center in February. Police said Johnson had stolen sunglasses and fled into a wooded area before he was shot by officers who pursued him. Police Chief Kevin Davis said it was unclear if Timothy was armed. The department plans to release body-worn camera footage of the incident on Thursday.

In a release, Fairfax County police say Washington D.C.-based nonprofit, the Police Executive Research Forum, will not focus solely on the recent police shooting.

“But will instead be a broad examination of recent incidents to determine how FCPD can better prevent them going forward,” the release read.

In addition to the review, the organization will provide guidance on the department’s foot-pursuit policy and training and policy recommendations.

In 2020, the auditor’s office commissioned the University of Texas at San Antonio to conduct a police use-of-force study on the county’s police department. It found that officers use force too often and more than should be expected against both Black and white civilians. However, it also found that police are more likely to draw weapons on Black civilians than White civilians.

Based on the findings and recommendations from researchers, the Use of Force Advisory Committee made recommendations to the police department. They include collecting more specific data in incidents where force is used and clarifying when force may be used in its policy.

Schott agreed with and supported most of the committee’s recommendations. Using the study, police incident reports, and the department’s draft revised Use of Force General Order, Schott also made numerous recommendations to the police department in 2022.

Recommendations that were implemented included adding the definitions for oleoresin capsicum (OC) Spray, impact weapons, and kinetic energy impact systems to the General Order’s list of definitions.

This article was written by WTOP’s news partner and republished with permission. Sign up for’s free email subscription today.


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