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Fairfax County Manager Outlines Plan To Keep Citizens Out Of Police Review

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Police Chief David Rohrer (center) outlines his proposal to have the county auditor (left) investigate potential misconduct.
Michael Pope
Police Chief David Rohrer (center) outlines his proposal to have the county auditor (left) investigate potential misconduct.

For more than a year, members of a group known as the Citizens Coalition for Police Accountability have been pushing the Fairfax County government to create a panel of citizens with the power to investigate charges of misconduct. The effort was prompted by several high-profile cases in Fairfax County, a factor County Manager Anthony Griffin says is a flaw in their line of argument.

"I think if you look carefully at the composition of many who are in the group advocating, many of them have an axe to grind with the Police Department...Because they are directly connected to cases that the Police Department has been involved with," Griffin says.

People such as Sal Culosi, who reached a $2 million settlement with the department after his son was shot and killed by county officers. He says the police need an independent review because the county officials shouldn't be able to dismiss allegations of misconduct.

"Clearly, anybody who investigates themselves, it's an issue. It's a natural thing for an organization that investigates [itself] to not hold them fully accountable," Culosi says.

Lee District Supervisor Jeff McKay disagrees. He says the county doesn't need a citizen review panel because the board of supervisors already plays that role.

"The citizen review, from my standpoint, happens at a minimum every four years when they can review the performance of the board of supervisors and make their own determinations," McKay says.

During a hearing Tuesday, the county manager and the police chief outlined their plan to exclude citizens from the process of reviewing charges of misconduct. But the coalition's secretary, Annie Whitehead, says her group vows to continue the fight.

"Even though [Tuesday] was a disappointment, we're not going to give up. We're going to continue to fight to get a citizen review board," she says.

The county manager is expected to make a formal recommendation after an audit of the Police Department later in 2011.

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