Q&A with J. Thomas Manger
"Levey Live," appears each Tuesday from 12 to 1 p.m. Eastern time. It is a live, moderated discussion offering washingtonpost.com users the chance to ask questions directly of the people who make the news and the people who report it. Your host is Washington Post columnist Bob Levey.
Bob's guest today was Fairfax County Police Chief J. Thomas Manger, who was appointed to that post by a unanimous vote of the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors on January 10, 1999. Manger had been serving as the county's Acting Police Chief since July 1998.
Manger started his police career in Fairfax County in 1977, serving as a Patrol Officer. Moving through the ranks, Manger served as Commander of the Patrol Bureau, Staff Duty Officer, and in command positions in most of Fairfax County's communities. He was appointed Deputy Chief of Operations in 1995 and served in that position until his appointment as Acting Chief of Police.
A graduate of the University of Maryland, Manger is the recipient of numerous police awards, including a Meritorious Action Award and the Silver Medal of Valor.
Here is a transcript of today's Q&A session.
On Friday, please join us for "Levey Live: Speaking Freely," an open-agenda conversation about anything on your mind, in the news or in Bob's Monday through Friday columns .
Indiana University-Bloomington: Hello, I attend college in Indiana, but graduated in '96 from an FCPS high school (Lake Braddock, to be more specific). I've noticed, that both in IN and VA, there seems to be an increasing presence of the police force in public schools. (And you and I both know that I'm not talking about crossing guards.) I was curious as to your thoughts on this. Do you have any plans to 'improve' the situation at all? Thank you.
J. Thomas Manger: We started several years ago putting School Resource Officers in the schools. They have been a great resource for the school and for the police.. Their primary purpose is to insure a safe environment in the schools so that the students have a great chance to learn.
Bob Levey: I shudder whenever I imagine what the reconstruction of the Springfield Mixing Bowl will be like. What's your plan for coping with the road rage that just has to result? Will you assign additional officers to that disaster-in-waiting 24 hours a day?
J. Thomas Manger: The best solution is to put an anger management therapist in a phone booth at every mile marker. Short of that, we intend to put additional staffing in the areas of construction during the multi-year project. It is still going to be a real mess a times.
fairfax, va: It has been quite some time since the FFCPD has received any "raises". What are your plans to appropriately compensate these officers not only to keep them on the force, but to motivate them to do the job that we need them to do. You have so many talented officers Id hate to lose them!
J. Thomas Manger: We actually have been fairly successful in recent years in getting some additional compensation for our sworn and civilian members. I have included in this year's budget an additional 3.2% across the board raise, as well as some other pay incentives in order to attract the best qualified candidates and retain the great officers that we have. I agree that we do have superior personnel in our agency.
Bob Levey: I loved the new program you began a few months ago, where you give free cell phones to people who might be victims of domestic violence. Is it working?
J. Thomas Manger: It is working great. Shortly after the program started we had a real success story with an abused woman who was being stalked. She used her cell phone to dial 911 and we were there before any harm came to her. The greatest value is the peace of mind that it gives the victims in these cases.
Fairfax VA: What is your (i.e the Fairfax County PD) functional relationship with small incorporated towns such as Herndon and Vienna? Does Fairfax Co provide primary or supplemental police services to these communities? I ask because I read the crime reports every week in the Post's Virginia Weekly and it seems that Herndon has a lot of assualts and Vienna a lot of vandalism. Why are those crimes so prevalent there and not in other areas of the County. Do those communities have distinct social personalities?
J. Thomas Manger: The towns of Herndon and Vienna have their own police departments, and report their own crime stats. Be careful as you look at crimes that occur in those locations because there are areas that have Vienna and Herndon addresses that are not in the town. Actually, those two areas have very low crime rates compared to other areas in the County.
Bob Levey: Fairfax has about 1,100 officers on board--about one-third as many as the District of Columbia, even though Fairfax has 350,000 more people. Sensible? Fair?
J. Thomas Manger: The number of police officers per capita in any jurisdiction is based on much more than population alone. An urban setting such as the District will always require more police. Crime rates and calls for service also play a large role in determining the number of cops you need.
Springfield, VA: I must bring up a subject that seems to be getting worse. That is the driving habits of officers on duty in either marked or unmarked cars. Last week, as I was driving with my son, who recently received his permit, we observed a police car that changed lanes without signaling. It was ironic as I had just corrected my son who had done the same thing. His comment was that if the police don't have to do it, why should he? This is not an isolated incident nor limited to just signalling. My 16 year-old son will be looking for your response. [edited for space]
J. Thomas Manger: Great question! The police are NOT above the law. We are allowed by State Code to drive in violation of the traffic laws in certain situations. During an emergency response, or when chasing a violator, etc.
Bob Levey: Your counterpart in Washington, Charles Ramsey, has made a big show of being a "working cop." He has busted prostitutes, speeders, double-parkers, all sorts of lawbreakers. Will Chief Manger do the same?
J. Thomas Manger: For the last two years, I have been out on patrol
Half an hour remaining with our guest, Fairfax County Chief of Police J. Thomas Manger.
What do you think is the
J. Thomas Manger: Too many cars and not enough roadway. That's the bottom line. We also live in a world where technology has reduced our waiting times for just about everything. People have less patience and many drivers are just plain selfish and rude....It all adds up to short tempers on the roads.
If I am speeding in MD, and make it over the woodrow wilson bridge - do the MD cops have to stop?
J. Thomas Manger: It depends on what charges they have on the person they are chasing. You may chase a fleeing felon across state lines. If you are just speeding, hopefully we will be waiting for you on the other side.
Bob Levey: Very common scenario: I'm driving in Fairfax County. I see someone break the law on the road. I write down the license number. I call the Fairfax County Police. But I'm always told that nothing can be done because no officer witnessed the violation. Is this a matter of law? Or do you just not want to devote police time to a case that might not lead to a conviction?
J. Thomas Manger: Any traffic violation requires an eyewitness (except in accident cases). We do have a smooth operator hotline number that you can call to report aggressive drivers. We will send out a warning letter to the owner of the vehicle. We have been doing this for about a year now and have gotten a good response. Call 703-691-2131 to report an aggressive driver and the operator will transfer the call to our hot line.
Merrifield, VA: I'd like to commend the officer (I'm not sure if he was a Fairfax County or State patrolman) who was standing out in the freezing rain this morning on the on-ramp from 495 (inner loop) to 66, pulling over the non-HOV cars. It must have been miserable, but it was nice to see they are out there anyway.
J. Thomas Manger: Call our Traffic Division at 703-280-0500 and they will be able to find out who it was. I know the officer would be very appreciative of the pat on the back. I can tell you that it is no fun standing out in the cold rain like that.
Reston, VA: Has the county considered the installation of speed cameras in order to free up police resources and improve traffic enforcement
J. Thomas Manger: We just got the authorization to do photo red light enforcement. This effort has been very successful in other jurisdictions. Photo radar would be the next logical step, but I'm not sure the County and State law makers are quite ready for this leap yet.
Bob Levey: I've railed for years against officially-sanctioned deer shoots. I think they're dangerous, ineffective, inhumane. Yet Fairfax County Police officers are serving as sharpshooters during regular deer shoots in county parks, and there doesn't seem to be much doubt that deer shoots will continue. What's your take on this?
J. Thomas Manger: This is a very emotional issue. I believe that there is a terrible problem with deer overpopulation in the County. We have to do something to keep the deer from starving to death and to reduce the growing numbers of car accidents involving deer. I think a comprehensive program that includes contraception as well as the controlled hunts by the sharpshooters is the best answer to the problem. It is, in my view, more humane than allowing them to starve. We also provide the deer meat to homeless shelters.
Bob Levey: The drug issue is much, much bigger than Fairfax County. Still, do you have any fresh ideas about how to keep kids and drugs apart?
J. Thomas Manger: Education is the key. We are planning to put School Resource Officers in the middle schools, as we did in the high schools. We are also developing new partnerships with the prevention and treatment agencies to come up with some new ideas for addressing this issue. But the key is with the parents talking and educating their kids at home.
Do the Fairfax County Police play a role in enforcing the HOV restrictions on I-66?
J. Thomas Manger: The Virginia State police have primary jurisdiction for enforcement on the interstates. Occassionally our motorcycle officers target these offenses too. I can sympathize with your frustration. I think that these are the types of violations that are typical of rude, aggressive drivers.
I have always been very pleased with the police service in this area but, I would like to know how the Fairfax police department investigates alegations of possible problems that arise. Is it done through internal review or is there a citizen review group? Can your personnel really be corrected in any meaningful way? Has a review ever resulted in personnel being let go?
J. Thomas Manger: It is the age old question, Can the police, police themselves? A good organization can, I believe. But we should be held strictly accountable by the media and the public. And yes, I just fired an officer this week for his conduct, that violated our standards of conduct.
That's it for today. Many thanks to Chief Manger for being our guest. Be sure to join us next Tuesday from noon to 1 p.m. Eastern time when our guest will be syndicated Washington Post political columnist E. J. Dionne. And please be with us this Friday, Feb. 5, from 1 to 2 p.m. Eastern time, for "Levey Live: Speaking Freely," our weekly anything-goes program.