University Researchers to Study Fairfax County Police Department’s Use-of-Force Incidents

Researchers from the University of Texas at San Antonio will study the Fairfax County Police Department’s use-of-force culture.

A study released three years ago found that roughly 40 percent of all use-of-force incidents involved a Black individual. The Fairfax County Board of Directors subsequently directed Police Auditor Richard Schott to find an academic team to review FCPD’s data.

The study, which will identify patterns and trends by FCPD with emphasis on race, ethnicity, and gender, will be completed by Jan. 31, 2021. Researchers will review incidents that happened between 2016 and 2018, in addition to the following questions:

1.    What factors or combination of factors contribute to the use of force by FCPD officers? Specifically, what role does civilian race, ethnicity, gender, or similar personal characteristics play in the decision to use force?

2.    Does the rate of force experienced by persons of different races and/or ethnicities align with those groups’ representation among persons at risk for having force used against them by the police? Do disparities exist in rates of force experienced by different racial and/or ethnic groups relative to risk?

3.    Is civilian race, ethnicity, or gender related to the level of force used by the police while accounting for resistance and other relevant individual, situational, and environmental factors?

4.    How can the FCPD improve its use of force data collection processes to help facilitate future analyses?

5.    What steps can the FCPD take to help reduce bias in use of force incidents?

The USTA team expects to present a reporting of its findings — including conclusions and next steps — to the Board of Supervisors.

File photo

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