Police Abuse

2013 Fairfax Police Shooting of Unarmed Man With Hands Up Leading to New Training, Policies

The police's image has to improve, says a communications subcommittee charged with proposing reforms.

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Maura Harrington/via the Washington Post

In August 2013, a Fairfax county police officer shot and killed John Geer as the unarmed man stood in the doorway of his home, then waited an hour to provide medical assistance while his family pleaded for help.  

Local authorities refused to release the name of the officer who shot Geer for 17 months, identifying him as Adam Torres only after the family filed a wrongful death suit against the county's police chief. Fairfax County settled for $2.95 million in taxpayer money, but refused to admit any liability or wrongdoing as part of the settlement.  

The county is still, technically, deciding whether to charge Torres, as an internal investigation remains open nearly two years after the killing of Geer. The lawsuit did uncover some new information about the incident—several witnesses, including four police officers, contradicted Torres' assertion that Geer was reaching for his waistband. They say he had his hands near his head.

Local outrage over the slow pace of the Geer investigation, and a lack of transparency from Fairfax county police, led the county to set up an "Ad Hoc Police Practices Review Commission" with five subcommittees to propose reforms:  on communications, independent oversight and investigation, mental health and crisis intervention training, recruitment, diversity and vetting, and use of force.

A new report from the communications subcommittee decries the "lip service" paid to transparency by county police. Via the Washington Post:

"Communications in recent high-profile use-of-force and critical incident cases were mishandled, inadequate and untimely" the report states, "leading to loss of public trust and questions about the legitimacy of police actions…If the department had policies that fostered real transparency, it's unlikely the controversies in recent years would have lasted so long and there likely would not have even been a call to form this commission."

That's a questionable assertion—Geer was shot while unarmed and standing in the doorway of his home. Had county police been more forthcoming about what happened and that the officer who killed Geer would not face any serious consequences, would that have allayed public outrage? More worryingly, the assertion implies preventing public outrage is more important than adopting new policies that impose accountability onto police officers.

The report did have specific recommendations, including that police should:

release the names of officers involved in shootings within a week, saying the national average is two days, and to immediately release all video and audio recordings if a citizen is killed. The committee also calls on the police to shorten the current 6-20 month timeframe to internally investigate officer-involved shootings and be responsive to questions from the public and news media.

The Torres investigation has been open for more nearly 24 months. Some of the transparency issues, the Washington Post and the subcommittee report note, arise from a state freedom of information law that provides an exception to records in "criminal investigative files," which county police use to reject requests for any police reports. While the Fairfax county government should, theoretically, have the power to order police to limit their use of that exception, a deputy county attorney told the subcommittee it should get the state law changed if they want the practice of rejecting FOIA requests to end. The issue of a lack of transparency in Fairfax police, especially when deadly force is involved, has been a long-standing concern. 

The Police Executive Research Forum, an organization of police executives from around the country, had also been asked to review the county police's use of force policies. The review was requested before the Geer shooting but didn't start till nearly a year after Geer was killed. It includes 71 recommendations, such as including "de-escalation," a "duty to intervene" for cops who see other cops acting inappropriately, and a "sanctity of life" statement in the use of force policy. The report also recommends the county not train recruits on how to fire a gun as the first thing in their training.

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  1. 2013 Fairfax Police Shooting of Unarmed Man With Hands Up Leading to New Training, Policies

    Firearm handling procedure 1157-1.

    Abstract: When the subject is unarmed and has his hands up, don’t shoot him.

    1. Indeed, Paul. They could also consider not hiring men and women who are prone to maim or murder their fellow human beings (or do harm to animals, for that matter).

      1. But… those are the only kinds who want to be a part of the few, the proud, the only “good” violators of NAP!

        I mean, if you want to a force to assault, steal, and murder for you, you don’t exactly have the greatest of volunteers.

        So… what you’re saying is you want press-gangs “drafts” to pick the new cops, right? I’m sure they could get right behind that idea.

        1. Far as the police are concerned, NAP is a sign the perp is unmutual and should be put in a boxcar.

    2. Kind of hard to think training is going to fix that sort of thing.

  2. ” Local outrage over the slow pace of the Geer investigation, and a lack of transparency from Fairfax county police, led the county to set up an “Ad Hoc Police Practices Review Commission” with five subcommittees to propose reforms: on communications, independent oversight and investigation, mental health and crisis intervention training, recruitment, diversity and vetting, and use of force.”

    D-D-D-D-Don’t quote me regulations. I co-chaired the committee that reviewed the recommendation to revise the color of the book that regulation’s in… We kept it grey!

    1. Apparently the pace wasn’t slow enough.

  3. Not much hope the cops will see the light and change their ways. I work in the same office as some federal LEOs. I engaged one about the rash of police shootings. He immediately started throwing up chaff: what the vidoes don’t show is if the officer had a previous encounter with the deceased, if the deceased was known to be violent, etc. The crazy thing is, we agree on most other subjects we have discussed. But on this one subject, he defaulted to defend his own.

  4. The lawsuit did uncover some new information about the incident?several witnesses, including four police officers, contradicted Torres’ assertion that Geer was reaching for his waistband. They say he had his hands near his head.

    Have those four officers been drummed out yet?

    1. When this is the only way to get information, they invite lawsuits from families as much for them to get answers as to get justice.

  5. The police’s image has to improve,

    When the ‘image’ matches reality, it is not the image which needs improvement.

    1. “… police officer shot and killed John Geer as the unarmed man stood in the doorway of his home, then waited an hour to provide medical assistance while his family pleaded for help .”

      I think that this informs us what type of person Officer Torres is.

      1. There were at least four other cops there who witnessed this, and presumably they didn’t lift a finger either. Cops are cops. Pain and misery is their stock in trade.

        1. Don’t forget, not a single one of those cops provided medical assistance. But I’m less interested in why some shaved baboon didn’t provide medical assistance, than finding out why there wasn’t an ambulance there within a few minutes.

          Presumably, none of the cops on the scene, or who knew about it via the radio called an ambulance, and presumably the family was prevented from doing so.

          Given what we know or can reasonably presume (pending further info, of course), is there any reason to believe that every cop on the scene, at a minimum, isn’t a vicious, sadistic, amoral thug?

          1. Given what we know or can reasonably presume (pending further info, of course), is there any reason to believe that every cop on the scene, at a minimum, isn’t a vicious, sadistic, amoral thug?

            Isn’t that a requirement for the job?

          2. None at all. This is the police agency that proned me out because I was holding a shotgun on two rapists in my backyard. The rapists escaped.

            That was some mighty fine police work there.

            1. I have no doubt that Chief Wiggum and the entire Springfield Police Department was based on the Fairfax County PD and the inmates thereof.

        2. “There were at least four other cops there who witnessed this…”

          I remembered this only after I had posted.
          I’m glad you and Dean pointed out my omission for other readers to consider.

          It seems the three of us (and others) have similar misgivings about the types of individuals being hired – and retained – by law enforcement.

          1. Who seeks out to be a cop, and why? Do you think good, moral people seek out a job where they hand out fines to people who can’t afford to pay, for crimes that have no victim? Do you think good, moral people seek out a job where they have the power to use violence on anyone who doesn’t immediately obey their every whim? Do you think good, moral people seek out a job where they can routinely lie and know that they will be believed simply because of their costume?

            I don’t.

            The job of policeman has been totally corrupted. They’re no longer peace officers who serve and protect their communities. They are thugs whose main function is to extort revenue at the point of a gun while using violence on anyone who fails to show sufficient respect.

            Good people do not seek out to do that.

            1. Sarc,

              The police officers I know well joined about 20 years ago and they joined for rather noble reasons, but one of them admitted that there were others who were hired who just wanted to lord it over or even bully their fellow human beings.
              A few years ago, when I first started learning about widespread police brutality I asked them a few questions. They said that the trend is to hire men and women who fit a specific physical image (strong, attractive) and have a certain outlook (an “enforcer” mentality and willing to follow any orders).
              I had occasion to ask another officer, whose father had been an officer, similar questions. She told me that her father had described how the force had changed across the years he’d been in. I specifically asked her if the trend was to hire “thugs with badges” and she very frankly said that it was. She wished me luck in any future encounters and basically told me that my well-being was dependent not on my behavior but upon who I happened to encounter.

              My anecdotal experiences aside, we have seen enough in the news and here at H&R to paint a very dismal picture of our nation’s future.

            2. I think the standing army of policemen is inherently vicious, though it seems to have been possible several years ago for somebody to join and work in it without going totally authoritarian nazi clasp fag all over the place. Now, however, it’s not possible. Natheless, I think that beyond sheriffs and special constables, a police force is inherently vicious and not to be preferred. But not only have they made it so that police men have to be authoritarian dirt nazis, but it got to that point for psychiatrists and social workers not too long ago, and now regular physicians are being absorbed into the agency of control. Essentially, anyone who is able to keep a job in one of those professions is either doing something very unusual and remarkable or else he’s an authoritarian jerk face.

      2. I wanted to comment on it too, but Geer closed the door on his way down. I can see there being something of an issue of safety, even if the incident was almost wholly manufactured by the cops in the first place.

  6. authorities refused to release the name of the officer who shot Geer for 17 months

    Well, if he shot a guy for 17 months who knows what he’s capable of!

    Seriously, this stuff is outrageous; and TPTB compound it with crap like [recommending] the county not train recruits on how to fire a gun as the first thing in their training.

  7. Eddie, that headline is the wheel upon which reading comprehension is broken.

  8. Here’s a photo of the man if you’re interested in seeing the unicorn of police shootings: the phantom white victim.

    Also,

    Torres said he considered Geer “a credible threat,” because he had placed a holstered gun at his feet at the beginning of the standoff.

    “PUT THE WEAPON DOWN!” “The weapon *is* down!” “I SEE A WEAPON!!” *BLAM BLAM BLAM*

    1. Well now I feel better. We paid 2.95 for a white man. I was surprised that #blacklivesmatter were so expensive.

  9. 50 Shades of Blue.

    A police story.

    1. What a turn-on! Beat me, whip me, kill me!!!

    2. Almost a Joe Bonamassa song.

  10. Fairfax County settled for $2.95 million in taxpayer money, but refused to admit any liability or wrongdoing as part of the settlement.

    I would have to insist on some kind of admission before I would settle.

    1. Then plan on the case dragging out for a century or more.

      1. Well, you could eventually force them into court (because they would never settle under those conditions), but you better be ready to shell out a lot dough for a really good lawyer of your own. Are there any crowd/donation funded organizations that take cases like this pro-bono, with the specific intent of going to court and finding fault?

        1. I’m guessing that most of these cases are handled on contingency, and they settle because at some point the lawyer just wants to get paid.

      2. Also plan on the judge bending both you and your attorney over for not using the opportunity for a settlement in good faith. Judges hate actually having to work.

    2. They probably offered 500K and no admission and they kept letting the bidding get higher.

      Show how much respect they have for taxpayers.

    3. I would have to insist on some kind of admission before I would settle.

      This, I don’t know why people do that. I want enough money to live on a tropical island for the rest of my life, AND I want a public admission of wrongdoing, AND I want to be in the room, personally presiding over the firing of all involved, while each provides me a personal apology as he hands me his badge and gun.

      1. Why not wish for a woodchipper while you’re at it? About as likely to happen.

    4. Never going to happen. The only way for it to happen is to reject the settlement and fight it out in court. Judges hate that.

  11. You know, if you need “training” and “policies” to inform your people that they shouldn’t shoot unarmed people who have their hands up, you’ve got a much, much bigger problem than not having the right training and policies.

    1. “Before we begin today’s lesson, I know you’d all like some more cake.”

  12. All security should be through private means. No amount of reform will fix an ultimately violent monopoly, funded through extortion that violates the rights of individuals required.

    1. required

  13. “training and policies”, my ass. This shit won’t end until and unless the perps suffer actual consequences for murder.

    -jcr

    1. Justice would be death. That’s a direct repayment of what they stole.

      1. Fire up the woodchipper, because that’s the only way it will happen.

        Police in this country need to remember what happened to the STASI after the Berlin Wall fell. No where to run, no place to hide. Just a rope around your neck and your final moments on this Earth dancing Danny Deever.

  14. If the department had policies that fostered real transparency…

    They’d just be much quicker and direct when they say “FYTW”. Not really solving any problems there except maybe more people take notice…

  15. Well – if there’s to be new training and procedures, then it’s all good. Carry on!

  16. If police offices are forced to defer to the vapid second-guessing of radical anti-law-and-order activists, they’ll never make it home to their families at the end of the shift.

    1. You say that like it’s a bad thing.

  17. This brings to mind Sal Culosi.

  18. the problem is John was white so the mainstream media doesn’t care so the police can drag their feet as long as they like

    1. Fairfax County is about as white bread as you can get this close to the District of Criminals. While there might not have been much MSM reporting on the matter, I can guarantee that locally there was a lot of heat placed on government officials.

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