Civilian oversight proposed for Prince William County police force

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

In the aftermath of a deadly police shooting in the Four Seasons community last week, a Prince William County supervisor wants to take advantage of police reform measures passed by the Virginia General Assembly this year to appoint a police civilian oversight committee.

The new law grants localities “clear authority” to establish civilian committees to investigate and issue findings on complaints against police, as well as officer use-of-force cases, Occoquan District Supervisor Kenny Boddye said in a news release.

The legislation was among many police reform bills finalized by state lawmakers last month, prompted by the May death of George Floyd in Minneapolis and the protests that followed. The bills touch every aspect of the state’s criminal justice system, from traffic stops to prison sentences.

“A civilian review board will both increase accountability and foster additional trust between the Prince William County Police Department and the community it serves,” Boddye said.

Boddye supported civilian oversight before taking office and began discussions with community leaders about such a committee after George Floyd’s death, his office said. He had been talking with civil rights leaders and the police department before the Dec. 10 shooting death of a suicidal 79-year-old man outside his home near Dumfries.

Boddye’s directive asks the county attorney to analyze the recent law passed by state lawmakers, said Emily Guerrero, his deputy chief of staff. It also directs the county executive’s team to analyze the financial implications, as well as launch “robust public outreach to various stakeholder groups – including civil rights organizations and law enforcement – throughout the process,” Guerrero said in an email.

Although there’s no set time frame, the intent is for county staff to come back to the Board of Supervisors with options for authority level and composition of a civilian review board, with information about each level’s legal ramifications, fiscal impacts, and reception by stakeholder groups, Guerrero said.

The move comes after five police officers shot and fatally wounded Kurtis Kay Frevert, a resident of the Four Seasons community off Route 234 between Montclair and Dumfries, outside his home in the 3600 block of Secret Grove Court around 8:15 p.m. on Dec. 10.

Frevert’s wife had called police at 7:14 p.m., reporting that her husband was suicidal, making concerning statements and armed with a handgun. When officers arrived at the 55-and-older community, her husband had left the home and was on foot with the handgun, Prince William County police 1st Sgt. Jonathan Perok said.

A Fairfax County police helicopter crew located Frevert in a nearby wooded area, where he was seen walking back toward his house, Perok said. Officers then saw the husband near the front door of the home, still armed with the handgun.

During the encounter that followed, five officers discharged their department-issued firearms at Frevert, who was struck several times. It’s unclear whether Frevert pointed his gun at officers or fired it.

Little information has been made public about Frevert, who bought the house in Four Seasons with his wife in May for $400,000, according to Prince William property records.

The involved officers have been placed on routine paid leave pending investigations by the police department’s internal affairs division and the office of Prince William Commonwealth’s Attorney Amy Ashworth.

“We understand the public’s desire to know more, which is why the commonwealth’s attorney’s office has assembled a team that is moving swiftly to gather the facts and review the incident,” Ashworth’s office said in a news release. “As this is an ongoing investigation, we will provide more information when appropriate in accordance with legal ethics.”

Acting Police Chief Jarad Phelps also released a video after the shooting in which he asked for the public’s patience as criminal and administrative investigations take place.

The incident marked one of the first uses of the police department’s new “co-responder unit” to assist during calls that involve mental health crises. County supervisors approved the unit earlier this year. The team includes an emergency services clinician and a crisis-intervention certified police officer. Beyond responding to calls, the unit also follows up with residents to help connect them to community resources.

The shooting comes as Prince William has hired Peter Newsham, chief of the D.C. Metropolitan Police Department, to head the county’s police force despite controversy over his tenure with the city police department. Newsham is scheduled to begin his job in Prince William in February.

More from WTOP

Log in to your WTOP account for notifications and alerts customized for you.

Sign up