A new bill could potentially significantly limit how long the Fairfax County Police Department and other state police departments can store data obtained through automated license plate readers (ALPRs).
As originally written, SB 1198 would bar police from storing data obtained by ALPRs for more than 30 days without a warrant or ongoing active investigation.
ALPRs have the ability to collect data and information like photos of license plates as well as a driver’s location at a particular date and time. They are often mounted on street poles, overpasses, or police square cars while a central server houses the data.
A number of civil liberty organizations like the ACLU have come out against the use of ALPRs as an invasion of privacy and chilling First Amendment protected activity.
The Virginia State Supreme Court ruled late last year that police departments are allowed to keep this data “indefinitely,” no warrant or investigation needed. This came after a Fairfax County judge ruled otherwise in 2019, saying that it was in violation of Virginia’s “Data Act.”
While some jurisdictions do purge this data relatively quickly, the Fairfax County Police Department does not.
Reston Now has confirmed that FCPD stores information collected by ALPRs for up to a year.
Their reasoning is that the information helps protect the community and locate missing persons.
“Using technology such as license plate recognition has improved our ability to safeguard Fairfax County,” Anthony Guglielmi, FCPD spokesperson, told Reston Now in a statement. “With that, we have stringent systems in place to protect the information privacy and constitutional rights of those we serve. We appreciate efforts to further study this important issue because it’s paramount that we strike an equitable balance between data retention and investigational integrity.”
“License plate readers… capture the movement of vehicles. They track who’s attending a church service, who’s attending a political rally, a gun show,” Petersen tells Reston Now. “It can be very arbitrary and very dangerous in that… it’s used to essentially put a layer of surveillance over citizens who are exercising their constitutional rights.”
The bill also notes that opportunities to secure employment, insurance, credit, and the right to due process could be “endangered by the misuse of certain of these personal information systems.”
That being said, Petersen notes his bill does not stop the collecting of this information but rather simply adds a “limitation” – 30 days – on how long information of this nature can be stored.
Additionally, the 30-day limitation is dropped if a warrant is obtained or there’s active criminal or missing person investigation.
“Frankly, it’s a pretty modest requirement,” he says.
Petersen says it’s this lack of “guardrails” that worry him and why he’s continued to propose bills of this nature.
“They say they have all types of internal controls. But who’s the judge of that?,” he says. “Who the heck knows who has access and who doesn’t. It’s the ability to use this [information] arbitrability or prejudicially that we have no control over.”
Besides police departments, information collected by ALPRs have also been used by revenue commissioners to confirm payment of property taxes (as is the case in Arlington County).
A slightly altered version of the bill did pass the Senate, but the House amended the bill to “establish a stakeholder workgroup to review the use of license plate readers” as a substitute for the 30-day limitation of storage.
“When my bill came out of the Senate, it was going to be an actual law. The House turned it into a study,” says Petersen. “Which basically kinda neuters it.”
The ACLU of Virginia agrees, with Executive Director Claire Guthrie Gastañaga writing Reston Now in an email that the organization “strongly supports SB1198 as introduced.”
“A requirement that government have a reason for collecting information about you and limiting the retention periods on data collected for no reason is reasonable,” she writes.
However, Petersen admits that it seems like he’s “hit a wall” in terms of getting his version of the bill passed. He doesn’t see a ton of value in a study, so he’s not going to accept the House amendment.
However, it does not alter his long-term goals that this bill could assist with.
“That’s limiting the amount of information the government can collect on its citizens,” he says. “We live in a free society… the government should not be tracking its own citizens.”
The Reston District Station police force is open to working alongside the community to establish trust and transparency.
That is the message that Reston District Station Commanders Captain Thea Pirnat and Lieutenant Marc Mitchell discussed with residents during a virtual Hunter Mill Town Hall hosted by Fairfax County Supervisor Walter Alcorn on Tuesday.
“We recognize the fact that police work is a changing profession,” Pirnat said. “It’s been evolving for a long time; we will continue to evolve. There’s always room for growth and improvement.”
Pirnat and Mitchell said that the Fairfax County Police Department’s policies and its work for the community, specifically as it relates to the Reston District Station and the Reston community.
Pirnat described the trends the station has tracked in crimes over the last two years and said the county “is one of the safest communities in the entire nation.” She added the crime rate is three times below the national average and the area saw a “down tick” in most crime over the last year.
She shared that a number of statistics fluctuated from 2019 to 2020, with calls to the police dropping. Overall, Pirnat said the number of calls for criminal acts have decreased and traffic enforcement went down as well as DWI fatalities in the Reston District Station.
Pirnat provided statistics to emphasize the decrease in some calls from 2019 to 2020. Robberies dropped from 344 to 314 and burglaries dropped from 635 to 619.
While some crime reports dropped, there was a noticeable increase in weapon calls and motor vehicle thefts. Weapon calls increased from 455 to 518 and motor vehicle thefts increased from 863 to 1,273. Service calls also increased as mental health case calls increased from 4,715 to 5,000 from 2019 to 2020.
Though some numbers spiked, Pirnat said she believes “Reston maintained a very safe atmosphere.”
She added the department has taken measures to address community concerns, particularly in the wake of homicides and reported gunshots. One highlight she pointed to was the establishment of the Reston Engagement and Safety Enforcement Team (RESET).
Pirnat described RESET as an assortment of officers focused on “a more blended response to what was going on, to engage with community members, to communicate better, build the rapport, build the trust, in addition to increasing visibility and suppressing potential crime.”
RESET is currently focused on south Reston, and Pirnat said the team has already removed numerous guns off the streets.
In reference to two homicides, Pirnat commended the department’s work in closing the case in the shooting of Samuel Onyeuka, 20, within 96 hours last week. She also mentioned the homicide case from September in which Iris Ponce Garcia, 19, of Reston was shot and killed in the area of Colts Neck Road and Glade Drive. Pirnat said the case is still active.
“It has not gone cold. There are active leads,” Pirnat said. “The Major Crimes Bureau is very much on top of several new leads right now that they believe is going to result in closure in the near future. I will certainly stay on top of that and keep our community informed, as well will our Major Crimes Bureau.”
Pirnat and Mitchell both stated there is always work to be done for the future of the police force.
“As your police department, we shouldn’t be operating in a manner in which you want to know, ‘ how do you investigate an accident,’ ‘what is your use of force policy when it’s reviewed, or if there’s a complaint,’ or ‘what’s the proper response for this type of police investigation,'” Mitchell said.
“We want to be transparent, we want to be deliberate and we want to be clear.”
Mitchell and Pirnat said the department has launched initiatives to engage with the community and be transparent. Among those was the introduction of a dashboard that houses data including arrests, citations, warnings and police department training and policies.
Pirnat also said body-worn cameras had been part of conversations prior to a pilot program in the county and the “expedited” process to issue the cameras to officers in 2020.
The officers also said the department will continue to build on the work the county has taken to previously address concerns. Those efforts include bringing in the Police Executive Research Forum in 2015 to review use of force policies and practices, and rewriting policies and updating force policy to focus on the sanctity of life.
Photo via the Fairfax County Government website
Last week marked Interim Fairfax County Police Chief David M. Rohrer’s first days on the job.
Rohrer’s top priorities, according to Sergeant Hudson Bull of Fairfax County Police Department, will be providing a smooth transition to the next Police Chief and ensuring “community safety.”
Responding directly to the accusation of low morale and rank-and-file officers’ continued skepticism of leadership, Bull noted that the new chief is working to dispel this notion.
“Chief Rohrer wants to make sure that community members, county employees, and officers are confident in the leadership of the department,” wrote Bull to Reston Now. “[He’s] focused on listening to officers and moving the department forward… Chief Rohrer is thankful for officers’ dedication and professionalism during these challenging times.”
FCPD declined a phone interview with Rohrer, noting that Rohrer is focusing on “providing a smooth transition for the next Chief of Police.”
In January, the Fairfax County Police Department selected Rohrer to take over for the county’s retiring police chief Edwin C. Roessler. He had been on the job for nearly eight years.
This isn’t new territory for Rohrer. He was previously Fairfax County Police Department’s chief from 2004 to 2012, when he was promoted to deputy county executive overseeing public safety. At that position, he oversees the department which consists of about 1,400 police officers.
He will remain deputy county executive even as he takes on this new responsibility.
“I work closely with Deputy County Executive Rohrer on a daily basis and I could not be more confident in his ability to see the Police Department through this period while we search for a new chief,” Fairfax County Executive Bryan J. Hill wrote in a statement to the Washington Post late last month.
Rohrer’s personality and management style, in 2012, was described as deliberate, not “flamboyant,” and hard-working.
While his tenure may be brief, it comes at a time when the department is in the midst of significant change.
During his eight years on the job, Roessler implemented nearly 200 reform efforts including body-cams for all officers, a citizen review panel, de-escalation training, and diverting some from jail who were diagnosed as mentally ill. Much of this was done in the wake of the 2013 fatal police shooting of an unarmed Springfield man.
However, it has come at the expense of morale and rank-and-file officers being skeptical of the leadership’s push to change. This became particularly acute after an officer was arrested for assault over the summer for using a stun gun and unnecessary force on a Black man who did not appear to be combative.
All of this, at least for the time being, is now at Rohrer’s feet.
Responding to a series of questions about his goals, why he took the interim job, and the challenges facing him, FCPD spokesperson Sergeant Hudson Bull wrote that Rohrer is prioritizing continuing the county’s reputation as being safe.
“Chief Rohrer wants to focus on ensuring that our County remains one of the safest jurisdictions in the country by supporting our officers and remaining attentive to the needs of our community members,” he writes.
Rohrer’s experience and institutional knowledge made him a perfect fit for this temporary job as the search for a replacement continues, notes Bull.
“The Chief’s vast experience in public safety provides him with insight and knowledge to be able to make the best possible decisions regarding important public safety matters for our community,” Bull writes. “His long tenure with Fairfax County gives him intimate knowledge of the public safety function that is provided within our county government.”
Bull writes the department says the community will provide integral insight into this decision.
“Fairfax County is seeking the best possible candidate for its next Chief of Police and will be using several means to accomplish that goal,” Bull says. “Most importantly, input from our community members will weigh heavily on our decision making process as the County moves forward in its search.”
(Updated at 1:30 p.m.) Local police are urging surrounding jurisdictions to exercise caution after a man threatened staff at a Bank of America location (11900 Baron Cameron Avenue) today.
According to the Fairfax County Police Department, the man threatened staff after they told him to wear a mask at around 9:21 a.m.
Sgt. Hudson Bull told Reston Now the man reportedly became “disorderly and threatened the staff before leaving.”
A description of the suspect was shared with neighboring police departments, including Arlington County police, which said in a be-on-the-lookout broadcast that the man had threatened to shoot bank employees and should be considered armed and dangerous.
“Officers are continuing to investigate this case and put out an informational message to surrounding jurisdictions for their awareness,” Bull said.
Image via Google Maps
A Herndon man has been arrested and charged with abduction in connecting with a barricade situation that happened on Saturday.
Fairfax County police believe Michael Von Husen, 38, threatened to harm a family member and then prevented the family from leaving their home on the 1500 block of Coat Ridge Road at around 6 p.m.
Officers assigned to FCPD’s special operations division were able to deescalate the situation through negotiations, according to Sgt. Hudson Bull.
One person was treated for minor injuries.
As reported yesterday, Fairfax County Police Department deployed officers to D.C. to assist law enforcement agencies in quelling the U.S. Capitol riots started by a mob of Trump supporters .
Reportedly more than 50 officers were injured, several seriously.
But no police officers from Fairfax County were among those that were injured seriously yesterday, a spokesperson for the police department tells Reston Now.
Arlington County Police Department as well sent officers to D.C. yesterday and also reported no serious injuries. ACPD also is sending officers today to help D.C. Police.
Meanwhile, Senator Mark Warner of Virginia was asked if residents in the region, particularly those in Fairfax and Arlington counties, should have concerns about similar incidents on Inauguration Day.
“That’s absolutely a fair question,” he said. “I pray that it will not take place.”
Warner said that to go into lockdown for major events and debates at the U.S. Capitol all the time going forward is not fair to those who live and work in the region. “That’s not the kind of country we are.”
He says that law enforcement needs a better plan and there needs to be responsible leadership in both parties. He thinks that will happen over the next two weeks.
“I have enormous confidence that we will get through this,” he said.
An FCPD spokesman told Reston Now its officers returned last night. So far, their assistance at the inauguration is not expected.
Photo via FCPD
Fairfax County police are not sending officers to D.C to assist with the first amendment demonstrations set to take place tomorrow, police spokesperson Sergeant Greg Bedor confirms to Reston Now.
The region is anticipating thousands of Trump supporters to descend on the region to protest Wednesday’s Congressional certification of the presidential election. Since November, the president has made numerous unproven claims that the election was stolen.
Over the last several weeks, he’s also repeatedly encouraged supporters via social media to protest on January 6. One such tweet in December said, “Be there, be wild.” He even said he would be there himself.
Fairfax County police, along with a number of other local jurisdictions, have traditionally had mutual aid agreements in place with D.C. police, in case situations arise where help is needed.
However, Bedor says that he does not expect FCPD to be called into D.C. tomorrow. “The [D.C.] Mayor has arranged for other support, so our understanding that’s been covered,” he says.
That other support is a reference to the D.C. National Guard being activated to provide traffic control and crowd management.
While it may be tempting to throw caution into the wind as 2020 winds to a close, local and state police are emphasizing the need for people to drive safely during the winter holidays, when alcohol-related crashes often spike.
Data from the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles Highway Safety Office shows that the Commonwealth has recorded more fatalities from traffic crashes related to speed and drunk driving so far this year than in all of 2019, the Virginia State Police reported on Monday (Dec. 21).
“Virginia is on pace to have more total fatal traffic crashes in 2020 than in 2019,” VSP Superintendent Col. Gary Settle said. “…Overall traffic crashes in Virginia this year are down significantly. This means each crash has been deadlier – deadlier because of speed, alcohol, distractions, and individuals not wearing seatbelts.”
The increase in deaths from crashes comes even as the COVID-19 pandemic kept many people off the roads and confined to their homes.
According to toll operator Transurban, traffic on the Interstate 95, 495, and 395 Express Lanes was down 80% in April – when Virginia had stay-at-home orders in place – compared to that same time period in 2019. While traffic has gradually increased since then, it remained 39% below 2019 levels as of November.
Police say that drunk-driving related fatalities and crashes typically go up nationwide during the holidays.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 839 people were killed in drunk-driving crashes in the U.S. in December 2018. 285 of them died during the Christmas and New Year’s holiday period, the VSP says.
The Fairfax County Police Department’s traffic division steps up its patrol for people driving the influence every year with an annual campaign against drunk driving that runs from the end of November to the new year.
“Although this campaign only runs until January 1, we are fortunate enough to have a dedicated DWI Squad to continue enforcement throughout the rest of the year,” the FCPD said in an email, adding that Virginia DMV recorded 336 alcohol-related crashes, 215 injuries, and seven deaths in the state from Nov. 30 to Dec. 15, 2019.
Health officials have been discouraging people from attending parties or gathering with people outside their immediate household, but for anyone who decides to travel during the holiday season, the Virginia State Police has some recommendations:
- Plan ahead. Designate a sober driver, call a friend or family member, or use a cab or public transportation.
- If you know someone has been drinking, do not let them drive. Arrange an alternative, safer way home.
- Call police if you see an impaired driver on the road. Dial #77 to contact the nearest VSP emergency communications center.
State police will also have new grounds to crack down on distracted driving in the new year. It will be illegal to use a phone or other handheld communications device while driving on highways in Virginia starting on Jan. 1.
“Virginia State Police is urging every motorist on the road this holiday season to be responsible, obey the traffic laws, ditch distractions, and wear a seatbelt,” the VSP said in its news release. “Whether heading to the grocery store, the post office, or delivering gifts to family and friends, choose to do it safely and do it responsibly.”
Local police have launched an investigation after a person was found in a body of water in Herndon.
According to the Fairfax County Police Department, the body was found shortly after 5:30 p.m. yesterday (Wednesday) in the 1300 block of Pellow Circle Court.
Preliminarily, police say the individual is a woman.
No information on the cause of death was released publicly. More details are expected this week.
Detectives are investigating the circumstances that led to this death. Preliminarily, detectives believe the victim is a woman. https://t.co/fwNi0psycl
— Fairfax County Police (@FairfaxCountyPD) December 17, 2020
A Herndon resident has been arrested in connection with a fatal shooting in the Town of Herndon that happened yesterday afternoon.
Jason Byrd, 20, was arrested yesterday. (Wednesday) after the Herndon Police Department “worked quickly” to identify Byrd as a suspect in the case, according to a police department spokesperson.
He was charged with second-degree murder and the use of a firearm during the commission of a felony. The arrest was made with the help of the Fairfax County Police Department.
The victim, Julian Rashad Martin, 30, of Reston, was found lying in the road on the 1000 block of Queens Court yesterday.
He later died from his injuries at Reston Hospital. Police responded to the area after receiving reports of shots fired in the area.
Photo via FCPD
At a Public Safety Committee Meeting, Chairman Rodney Lusk presented an overview of proposed changes in what was described as possible changes rather than new policies set into stone.
Near term considerations included improved data collection to improve accuracy, with ethnicity and a breakdown of arrest data included in documentation. Data would be released quarterly.
One of the other practices that’s come under fire nationally is the firing and immediate re-hiring of police officers across jurisdictions. One proposed change would crack down on that as part of a statewide push to make decertification easier.
“Consider and discuss implementation of state legislation related to the decertification of law enforcement officers who have been terminated or resigned for misconduct and the request and disclosure of information for prospective law-enforcement hires,” the input matrix said.
While many of the items items being considered focused on more transparency and restrictions on police, another item being considered was a review of how to boost morale in the police department, which Lusk said was at an all time low.
The committee also considered some mid-term options, like reviewing regulations around school resource officers and a review of Fairfax County Police Department use of force policies. with more data about the racial distribution of arrests, another mid-term goal was reviewing racial disparities in use of force and arrests.
“These are public suggestions… not approved by the board,” said Fairfax County Board chair Jeff McKay. “This is a parking lot of ideas that have come through your office and now must be adjudicated by this board based on data and conversations… Some of these will go off to other committees.”
Image via Fairfax County
Safety concerns are rising around a police reform bill blocking officers from pulling over drivers without headlights at night, part of an initiative to reform police searches when detecting marijuana in vehicles.
Senate Bill 5029, initially introduced by Senator L. Louise Lucas (D), reads that “no law-enforcement officer may lawfully stop a motor vehicle for operating without a light illuminating a license plate, with defective and unsafe equipment, without brake lights or a high mount stop light,” as well as other vehicle defects. The bill was passed by the House and Senate and is now waiting on Governor Ralph Northam to sign into action.
However, the Herndon Police Chief Maggie DeBoard has expressed concern over the passing of the bill because it undermines several different safety measures.
On Oct. 14, DeBoard crafted a letter and uploaded it to Facebook via the Herndon Police Department, addressing Northam on behalf of the Virginia Association of Chiefs of Police on the areas of the bill they oppose and would like to see changed.
“Our citizens expect us to protect them. This bill prevents that and will certainly lead to an increase in vehicle and pedestrian fatalities throughout the state,” said DeBoard in her letter. “We strongly encourage you to amend SB 5029 and HB 5058 to remove the amendments that negatively impact the safety of our citizens and visitors.”
According to the police department, Northam has until today to take action on the bill.
Photo via Herndon Police Department
Fairfax County Police Department participates in National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day this week with several drop-off locations, including Reston Hospital.
This Saturday (Oct. 24) Reston residents can properly dispose of their expired, unused, or unwanted prescription pills and patches, according to FCPD.
There will be drop-off locations across the county collecting items from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., including Reston Hospital(1850 Town Center Parkway) as it works to “Crush the Crisis” during this day.
“Volunteers will be collecting tablets, capsules, and patches of Hydrocodone (Norco, Lortab, Vicodin), Oxycodone (Oxycontin, Percocet), Tramadol (Ultram), Codeine, Fentanyl (Duragesic), Morphine, Hydromorphone (Dilaudid), and Oxymorphone(Opana), the press release said. “Needles, syringes, lancets, or liquids will not be accepted. Law enforcement officers from the Fairfax County Police Department will be on site to assist with the collection and disposal of unused medications.”
E-cigarettes and vape pens will also be accepted, only if the batteries are removed.
Other drop-off locations include:
- Fair Oaks District Station (12300 Lee Jackson Memorial Highway)
- Franconia District Station (6121 Franconia Road)
- Mason District Station (6507 Columbia Pike)
- McLean District Station (1437 Balls Hill Road)
- Mount Vernon District Station (2511 Parkers Lane)
- Sully District Station (4900 Stonecroft Blvd.)
- West Springfield District Station (6140 Rolling Road)
This year will be the 19th year of U.S. Department of Justice Drug Enforcement Administration’s National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day.
Last year, almost five thousand law enforcement facilities participated across the county, with more than six thousand collection sites, the website said.
Photo by Freestocks/Unsplash
Police have identified the name and age of a teen shot and killed on Sept. 17.
Ponce Garcia, 19, was found with multiple gunshot wounds overnight in the area of Colts Neck Road and Glade Drive.
She was pronounced dead at the scene. Her identity was released by the Fairfax County Police Department today (Friday) after next of kin were notified.
The investigation is ongoing and detectives continue to process evidence and conduct interviews.
Anyone with information is encouraged to contact FCPD using the following methods:
This remains an active investigation and detectives are asking anyone who has information about this incident to contact them at 703-246-7800, option 2. Tips can also be submitted anonymously through Crime Solvers by phone – 1-866-411-TIPS (866-411-8477), by text – Type “FCCS” plus tip to 847411, and by web – Click HERE. Download our Mobile tip411 App “Fairfax Co Crime Solvers”. Anonymous tipsters are eligible for cash rewards of $100 to $1,000 dollars if their information leads to an arrest.
Protesters are asking that we say her name, “Breonna Taylor,” as well we should in reminding ourselves and others as to how unfairly laws can be applied. Breonna was a young Black woman in her mid-20’s who worked as an emergency room technician before she was tragically killed by police in a raid on her apartment for reasons that did not involve her. Louisville, Kentucky police got a “no-knock search warrant” to enter her apartment for they suspected that her boyfriend who was in the apartment with her was dealing in drugs. The no-knock warrant was justified by the police as necessary to keep the suspected dealer from having time to destroy evidence. That’s the police view of events.
From inside the apartment in the dark after midnight on March 13 this year there was the sound of the front door being knocked down, and three plain-clothed men entered the apartment. The boyfriend responded by firing a shot that he maintains was in self-defense and that hit one of the policemen in the leg. Under the legal concept of “castle doctrine” in common law and many state statutes a person can use deadly force to protect oneself from an intruder in their home who could cause bodily injury or death.
The boyfriend said he fired that single shot in self-defense. The police responded to his self-defense by firing 32 times into the apartment in self-defense against his self-defense. The boyfriend was not hit, but Breonna Taylor who was an innocent unarmed bystander was killed by the six shots that hit her. No one has been charged with her murder! Any wonder why criminal justice reform advocates have taken to the streets once again?
Clearly the job of maintaining safe communities is a challenging one, but since when is intercepting an alleged drug dealer more important than the life of such an innocent and promising young woman? Since when do we prioritize the arrest of a possible drug dealer over the sanctity of someone’s home with an unannounced, middle of the night raid when the home that is raided is not even that of the person who is the subject of that raid?
I am pleased that the Special Session of the General Assembly now convened is taking on the difficult issues related to public safety and criminal justice reform and the racism that too often has driven policy in the past. While many of these tough issues are still being debated between the House and Senate, I am confident that we will get rid of no-knock warrants in the state, that we will expand police training and civilian oversight of police activity, and that we will reduce the classroom to corrections situations that have caught too many young people of color. We will maintain law and order in our communities without locking up persons of color for minor offenses for unjustified lengths of time.
We need to say the name of Breonna Taylor to remember her murder, but hopefully in the future her death will represent the beginning of real criminal justice reform.