Nearly a dozen regional police departments—two in Loudoun—are poised to get some help when investigating officer-involved shootings that result in deaths or injuries, with the goal of improving transparency and reducing conflict of interest concerns arising from agencies investigating their own members.
The Northern Virginia Police Chiefs and Sheriffs Committee announced today the creation of the Critical Incident Response Team, which will see detectives from 11 member agencies come together to investigate incidents involving the serious injury or death of a person at the hands of police officers. Participating in the initiative are the police departments in Arlington, Fairfax City, Falls Church, Herndon, Leesburg, Manassas City, Manassas Park, the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority, Prince William County, Purcellville and Vienna.
Prince William County Police Department Assistant Police Chief Kevin Hughart said during Tuesday morning’s announcement that the committee began examining the formation of the team in December 2019 and that it would be composed of “highly trained, skilled and tenured” police detectives from all 11 member departments.
According to a statement from the Leesburg Police Department, the member agencies can call on the team to investigate incidents such as those involving police shootings, in-custody deaths and officer suicides.
When called upon, the team will conduct a criminal investigation alongside the Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office in the particular jurisdiction to determine the facts of the incident. Hughart noted that those investigations would not include detectives from the agency in which the investigation is being conducted “to ensure neutrality and transparency to communities.”
That work would be separate from the individual agency’s internal investigation.
“This team is designed to provide a thorough investigation of the incident while maintaining a transparent determination of facts for the community,” Hughart said.
Herndon Police ChiefMaggie DeBoard said there’s “no better time” to form the team than now.
Purcellville Police Chief Cynthia McAllister on Monday night told the town’s Community Policing Advisory Committee the program would bring more resources to help small agencies and provide a more transparent, more impartial review of the major incidents. The team of seasoned investigators would be activated to address major incidents—“the stories you hear on the news, the big deals,” she said.
The Purcellville Town Council is expected to vote to authorize the town to join the team at its meeting Tuesday night.