Fairfax County Officers Disproportionately Use Force on African Americans, Report Says

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Fairfax County Police Department officers use force on African Americans far more often than they do on people of other races and ethnicities, new data from the department says. 

A report from the department’s internal affairs bureau analyzed cases in 2019. Out of nearly 600 reviews of use of force for the year, 53% of incidents were against Black people, who only make up 9% of the county’s population. 

Thirty-eight percent of incidents involved white people, 20% were Hispanic and 4% were Asian. 

Use of force includes takedowns, pointing a gun and using an electronic control weapon, among other tactics. 

County Police Chief Ed Roessler said work would continue to strengthen the department. 

“It's crucial that we document and independently scrutinize every incident to hold ourselves accountable to the communities we serve,” he said in a statement. 

The president of the county’s NAACP group, Sean Perryman, said the numbers are alarming but the same pattern has existed for at least five years. He said he was particularly troubled by how infrequently police identify violations of their own policies. In 2018, the department investigated 510 use-of-force incidents and discovered two violations. In 2019, they investigated 594 incidents and did not find a single department violation.

“The police are investigating themselves and finding no wrongdoing,” Perryman said. 

Overall, the department says the use of force is rare and occurs in 0.12% of calls for service. 

The department is currently reviewing use-of-force incidents from earlier this month. 

County Officer Tyler Timberlake is charged with three counts of assault after he used a Taser on a Black man, La Monta Gladney, on June 5. Gladney was unarmed and Timberlake used the device about 10 seconds after he stepped out of his cruiser, video shows. 

“After seeing the video of Officer Timberlake, it's hard to believe that's an isolated incident and that there are no other incidents like it,” Perryman said. 

See the full report here.

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