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FairfaxNew police chief faces challenges as arrival nears

New police chief faces challenges as arrival nears

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Former Baltimore Police Commissioner Kevin Davis, who, Fairfax leaders say, has a track record of community engagement, will succeed retired Fairfax County Police Chief Edwin Roessler Jr. , the Board of Supervisors unanimously decided April 23.

Davis will assume his new role May 3 at an annual salary of $215,000.
“This is a humbling moment for me,” Davis told the supervisors. “I take it very seriously and I promise not to let you down.”

Supervisors are confident that Davis will “continue Fairfax’s work on police reform, build on the deep community involvement and relationships with stakeholders, and improve morale within the police department,” said Board of Supervisors Chairman Jeff McKay (D).

Davis worked for the Prince George’s County (Md.) Police Department from 1992 to 2013, rising to assistant chief. He then served as chief of the Anne Arundel County (Md.) Police Department from 2013 to 2014, where he created a crisis-intervention team and became the first chief in Maryland to require officers to carry and be capable of administering naloxone to people overdosing on drugs.

Davis then spent seven months as the Baltimore Police Department’s deputy commissioner, where he oversaw its Investigations and Intelligence Bureau and became its commissioner in July 2015.

During his tenure, he instituted a body-worn-camera program, increased community outreach, provided information about the department’s internal policies and all officer-involved shootings, and established a Department of Justice Compliance and Accountability Division, Fairfax County officials said.

According to the Baltimore Sun, Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh fired Davis in January 2018 because of continued high crime in the city. (A U.S. district judge in February 2020 sentenced Pugh to three years in federal prison in connection with a sales scheme involving her self-published children’s books.)

Davis in 2019 did a one-year fellowship with Open Society Foundations, where he wrote a book about federally mandated consent decrees and whether they led to necessary reforms for the U.S. police agencies under scrutiny.

Open Society Foundations was founded by billionaire George Soros and is, according to its Website, “the largest private funder of independent groups working for justice, democratic governance, and human rights.”

Davis was born and raised in College Park, Md., and his family has a history of policing in Maryland, according to the Aspen Institute. He is a graduate of the FBI National Academy and FBI National Executive Institute and holds a master’s degree in management from Johns Hopkins University and a bachelor’s in English from Towson University.

An adjunct professor at American University and lecturer at Catholic University of America, Davis also recently was appointed to a four-year term on Maryland’s Commission on Judicial Disabilities, an independent body that hears complaints against judges. He most recently served as consulting-services director for GardaWorld.

Fairfax County police have been under public pressure for reforms since an officer fatally shot Kingstowne resident John Geer in 2013. Supervisors formed a commission that produced more than 200 recommendations, many of which the department has implemented. A major objective – a body-worn-camera program – is slated for full implementation later this year.

But morale in the department has been in a “tailspin” of late, with a staffing shortage of 188 officers, a police-employee group leader told the McLean Citizens Association last week.

Police organizations last year sought to replace Roessler with someone outside the department after he sided with Commonwealth’s Attorney Steve Descano in charging an officer following a taser incident in Mount Vernon.

Roessler retired in February and Deputy County Executive for Public Safety David Rohrer – a former chief of department – has been interim chief since.

County officials hired a firm to conduct a nationwide search for Roessler’s successor. The company held more than 275 community meetings and calls, sent more than 450 e-mails to stakeholders, and conducted a survey that received in excess of 3,000 responses, McKay said.

Davis emphasized that the Fairfax County Police Department is a “great agency,” but has room for improvement.

“Are you up to the task? Of course. Is change sometimes hard and difficult? Absolutely,” he said. “But if you didn’t know you were in a difficult position, we wouldn’t be here. So we have to seize this moment and continue to get better.”

Davis said he looked forward to working with community groups. The department first must establish legitimacy to earn trust and should pay particular attention to vulnerable, under-served and minority communities, he said.

“We have to meet you where you are,” Davis said. “We have to be better listeners, we have to be less defensive and we have to, quite frankly, see you.”

The new chief said he would “call balls and strikes” when it comes to police accountability.

“No one hates a bad cop more than a good cop,” he said.

Supervisor Rodney Lusk (D-Lee) said he hoped Davis would “bring a renewed commitment to data transparency, eliminating disparities in use of force, and other common-sense reforms to our police department.”

Davis has a “proven track record of implementing meaningful reforms in the face of fierce resistance,” said Supervisor James Walkinshaw (D-Braddock), citing his work for Open Society Foundations. “With Chief Kevin Davis, Fairfax County is poised to build on the accountability measures already in place here and lead the nation in ensuring that the law is employed as an instrument of justice.”

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