Fairfax County officials estimated Tuesday that it will cost $35 million to implement reforms to the county police department recommended by a commission formed in the wake of controversy over the fatal shooting of an unarmed man.
The recommendations — 202 of them in all — include forming a civilian review panel, mandating Fairfax police to wear body cameras and requiring that they be promptly tested for drugs or steroids in cases where a suspect dies or is seriously injured.
“Some of these items will be lengthy, complex discussions,” Deputy County Executive David M. Rohrer told the supervisors during a public safety meeting held Tuesday.
The county is planning to spend about $7.5 million in fiscal 2017 to implement some of the reforms, plus a new program geared toward better handling of police calls involving people with mental health issues, officials said.
The 70-member commission recommended the reforms last fall in response to community anger over how Fairfax handled the investigation into the 2013 shooting of John Geer, who died after being shot in front of his home in Springfield.
Adam D. Torres, the officer who shot Geer, is facing a charge of second-degree murder in Fairfax’s Circuit Court. He was fired last July.
At Tuesday’s meeting, police chief Edwin C. Roessler said many of the reforms are necessary to keep pace with steady demographic changes and new development occurring in the county of 1.1 million residents.
“We are on the cusp of rapid urbanization,” Roessler said. “Things are changing and, constantly, we need to change.”
The department has begun training officers to better deal with people with mental health problems, he said. Additionally, new department recruits now start their first week in the county police academy learning about critical decision making, accountability and the policing philosophy, Roessler said.
However, rank-and-file officers are frustrated by the reforms, which they see as a form of punishment for the bad actions of one officer, said Sean Corcoran, a Fairfax County detective who was a member of the advisory commission.
“We’re told that we’re the safest jurisdiction of our size because of the great work that everybody is doing out there every day,” Corcoran said. “But why does it feel a little like, on some level, we’re doing something wrong?”
Several county supervisors expressed support for the county police, but argued that the reforms are nonetheless necessary.
“We’re the safest jurisdiction of our size and the mission is to stay there,” said Supervisor Pat Herrity (R-Springfield.)