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Fairfax supervisors praise police-review panel, but . . .

County leaders hold back on granting more authority to body

Fairfax County supervisors on Aug. 1 lauded efforts by the Police Civilian Review Panel to investigate some complaints filed against county police, but were not eager just yet to expand the volunteer group’s powers.

Dirck Hargraves, the Police Civilian Review Panel’s immediate past chairman, delivered the group’s 2022 annual report at the Board of Supervisors’ Safety & Security Committee meeting.

The panel fielded 24 complaints filed last year regarding actions by county police – the lowest amount since supervisors formed the group in 2018. There have been 147 such complaints in all, including 31 in 2018, 29 in 2019, 35 in 2020 and 28 in 2021.

Some of the decline in complaints may have been because of the police department’s implementation of new crisis-response methods, Hargraves said. Also, some cases still were being adjudicated and could not be reviewed yet by the panel, which might result in an uptick next year, he said.

Seven complaints last year resulted in panel reviews and a subcommittee recommended that one of those undergo further review.

Supervisors formed the panel to enhance legitimacy and trust between county police and the community, Hargraves said. The group serves as an independent avenue for people making complaints against county police, reviews investigations by the police department’s Internal Affairs Bureau (IAB) and makes recommendations on the department’s policies and practices.

The panel does not handle police use-of-force cases, which are the purview of the Office of the Independent Police Auditor.

The Police Civilian Review Panel plans to implement a formalized training program, which will last for more than 20 hours, for current and future members. The training sessions will be recorded for future members’ benefit, Hargraves said.

Hargraves thanked county police for allowing panel members to participate in some of the department’s training, such as that pertaining to use of force.

During the coming year, the panel intends to do more outreach to under-served communities in the county and immigrant groups, who may in their home countries an aversion to dealing with police and other authority figures, Hargraves said.

Supervisor Rodney Lusk (D-Franconia), who chairs the board’s Safety & Security Committee, agreed with that strategy.

“If we’re going to build better trust and accountability, we’re going to have to get out in the community,” Lusk said. “We’re going to [have to] have people understand who we are and what we do.”

While not likely to be granted investigatory authority, panel members would like supervisors to grant the group the ability to monitor police cases falling under its purview, Hargraves said.

“Particularly in racial-bias cases, I think it would be helpful for us to have that ability to kind of see where the police are going and if the IAB is investigating those cases,” he said. “I think [it] would make the police’s work, as they report it, even more thorough than it is now, and would reduce the back-and-forth that would occur.”

Supervisor James Walkinshaw (D-Braddock) said it was vital for panel members first to undergo some of the police department’s training.

“If you don’t have time to do the training, you don’t have time to take on additional responsibilities as it relates to monitoring,” Walkinshaw said. “For me, they would have to be linked . . . I think that panel members will have a better experience on the panel if everyone goes through some kind of structured training. I think it might actually improve retention of panel members, even though it’s an added burden up front.”

The panel shifted some members to different roles last year and some left the group for various reasons, Hargraves said. Immediate past chairman Jimmy Bierman resigned in accordance with the group’s bylaws so he could make a bid for public office. Bierman in the June 20 primary defeated David Fiske to become the Democratic nominee in the Nov. 7 election to succeed retiring Dranesville District Supervisor John Foust (D).

Hargraves then became chairman and the panel nominated and elected member Todd Cranford to serve as vice chairman. Hargraves since has rotated out of the chairmanship and Cranford now holds that post.

Hargraves thanked supervisors for hiring Steven Richardson as the group’s first executive director and arranging for management analyst Sanjida Lisa to help the panel review investigative files, meet community stakeholders, write review reports and correspond with complainants, county police and the Board of Supervisors.

The panel last year also added Bynum & Jenkins as its legal counsel, he said.

Board of Supervisors Chairman Jeff McKay (D) thanked the panel’s members for their service.

“These are volunteers who are giving generously of their time and talent because they care,” he said.

For more information on the panel, visit or call (703) 324-7329.