Each year, I host a civic leadership series for presidents and board members of civic and homeowners’ associations in Mason District. The Saturday morning meetings are designed to bring together residents and county agency staff, to discuss issues of interest and importance to neighborhoods, and seek solutions where the county and the citizens can work together in a positive fashion. Last Saturday’s 2018 opening session featured the police commanders and assistant commanders from the Mason, Franconia, and West Springfield police stations, which cover calls in the Mason magisterial district.
Fairfax County is the safest community of its size in the nation, a point of pride for all the panelists. Those “bragging rights,” however, are the result of a lot of hard work, on a 24/7 basis, by police officers and the people they are charged to protect. The Mason Station will participate in a pilot program to test body-worn cameras, along with the Mount Vernon and McLean stations. The three-to-six month pilot, which currently is planned for a March startup, will be monitored by an academic team from The American University, which will analyze the usage and associated issues during the program, and make recommendations about implementing the program countywide. Local and state law that may govern the use of body-worn cameras, and retention of the data therein, still is in its infancy. Generally, Virginia law requires evidence and other data to be maintained for 99 years; other durations are shorter, but most are at least a decade. Storage, who has access, what can be released, what needs to be pixelated (blurring facial identities to maintain privacy rights), and how many staff persons will be needed to do all of that, is yet to be determined.
A question about break-ins received a very simple answer: lock your car and your house. The police captains said that in a significant percentage of reports, the vehicle or house was unlocked, making it easy for the bad guys to grab whatever was in sight. Don’t leave valuables visible in your vehicle; remove or hide the garage door opener. Same with your cell phone or other electronic device. Lock your car, even if you’re just running into 7-Eleven for coffee.
Recent reports about coarse, profane language used by the president to describe other countries in an Oval Office meeting with Members of Congress were unsettling, but perhaps not surprising. Almost every day, this president lowers public discourse to a level rarely or never experienced. Leadership, by its very nature, is positive, and leaders at all levels — local, state, national — are role models. That’s a heavy responsibility, but most leaders recognize the moral imperative that election places on them, and that working together, not dividing, produces desirable results for the broader population. There is dignity and worth in every person, regardless of where they were born, which language they speak, faith they practice, or ZIP Code where they reside. That’s the real lesson of leadership, a legacy that most leaders would be proud to bequeath to future generations.
Penny Gross is the Mason District Supervisor, in the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors. She may be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org.