The Herndon Police Department plans to join a regional team that will investigate officer-involved investigations, a move that the department hopes will create an expert-led, independent and objective process for investigations.
For over a year, police chiefs from Northern Virginia worked to create a Critical Incident Response Team (CIRT) to investigate officer-involved critical incidents like police shootings, use-of-force incidents that result in death or life-threatening injuries, police officer suicides, and in-custody deaths.
At a Herndon Town Council meeting on Dec. 1, Police Chief Maggie DeBoard said the team would boost public confidence in the investigation process, rule out potential conflicts of interest, and create a process for objective investigations.
“It’s a way for us to make sure these are done independently without bias, which really has been one of the outcries of police reform across the country,” DeBoard said.
Currently, HPD works with the Fairfax County Police Department to address similar issues. Absent a formal Memorandum of Understanding (MOU), DeBoard said the process is challenged by FCPD’s limited availability if multiple incidents require a prompt investigation.
DeBoard also noted that HPD can develop the expertise of its staff by taking part in investigations of other jurisdictions.
Alexandria recently pulled out of the proposed team because of delays in bringing the project forward to its City Council. But 11 other jurisdictions have committed to take part in the task force:
- Arlington County
- Falls Church
- Manassas Park
- Metropolitan Washington Airport Authority Police Department
- Prince William County
Members of the Herndon Town Council agreed with the need for the program at the meeting.
According to a Dec. 1 staff report, taking part in CIRT will not result in additional expenses, other than overtime expenses that are already allocated in HPD’s current budget.
CIRT will not investigate car crashes that result in death, unless the car itself was used as deadly force. Completed case investigations will go before the Commonwealth’s Attorney, who will decide whether to prosecute any individuals.