Local Commentary

A Penny for Your Thoughts: News of Greater Falls Church

“Stop the World – I Want to Get Off” was the title of a musical play popular in London and New York in the early 1960s. Urban lore says that the title was derived from a graffito. The early 1960s, and the decade that followed, witnessed significant political and social changes that might be compared to multiple events today. Crisis piled upon crisis — Covid-19, loss of millions of jobs, racial and social unrest, and the accompanying mental and behavioral health stresses — is it any wonder that stopping the world to get off sometimes seems like a rational approach?

The more rational approach, of course, requires a lot of listening, dialogue, tolerance, and understanding as we find the pathways (there likely is more than just one) to the success we all are seeking. Finding some solutions probably are easy; others may take more time to develop. At Tuesday’s Board of Supervisors meeting, the Board endorsed a request for an inventory of Confederate names on streets and county-owned properties, with a subsequent community-based process to consider name changes. There are dozens, perhaps hundreds, of street names in Mason District and Fairfax County that may or may not be connected to Confederate names, so the process needs to be thorough, fair, and historically correct.

The Board also endorsed facilitating a partnership with the My Brother’s Keeper Alliance that aims to improve literacy and college and career readiness for young men of color, as well as addressing the disproportionate amount of contact with law enforcement that youth of color experience. The My Brother’s Keeper Alliance aligns well with the One Fairfax policy, adopted by the Board of Supervisors and the School Board, which works toward making Fairfax County a place where all can thrive.

The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) has more than a century of advocacy and social activism, and the Fairfax County Chapter continues that effort. Earlier this month, the chapter leadership issued eight demands for police reform and accountability, and discussed them with elected officials in a robust virtual town meeting last week. Coincidentally, both the 2019 Use of Force Report and the 2019 Police Department Annual Report were released this month, and can be accessed at www.fairfaxcounty.gov/police. In 2019, there were 491,682 calls for service in Fairfax County. Of those calls for service, there were 594 use of force incidents, which equates to 0.12 percent of the total calls for service, or 1.2 use of force incidents per 1000 calls. In 2017, the Board of Supervisors created the Civilian Review Panel and the Office of the Independent Police Auditor to serve as additional layers of accountability and transparency in investigation of complaints against the police department. Most of the use of force incidents reported were generated by the police (577 through a supplemental police report). Only 17 reports were generated by a community member. All 17 complaints were investigated, and no use of force violations were sustained.

The report also identifies the race of community members involved in a use of force incident, and the numbers are of concern, as the NAACP town meeting discussion noted. In 2019, 266 Black males were involved, versus 110 Hispanic males and 178 White males. The results are similar for the two previous years, 2017 and 2018. Clearly, the report helps set the stage for additional dialogue about changes to programs and policies that serve our community.

Congratulations to Gerry Strider, longtime Chief of the Bailey’s Crossroads Volunteer Fire Department, who received a Lifetime Achievement Award from Volunteer Fairfax this week. Gerry has led the BXVFD for more than 30 years, recruiting hundreds of community members to the volunteer fire services, among many other accomplishments. Thanks, Gerry, for your unstinting support of our community!

Penny Gross is the Mason District Supervisor, in the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors. She may be emailed at mason@fairfaxcounty.gov.