police

Recently the Fairfax County Police removed names from their weekly recap on their blog. The names were of people who had either been arrested or charged with a crime.

The change was implemented in response to the Trust Policy implemented by Fairfax County back in January. The policy prohibits county employees from sharing any information that can be used to distinguish or trace an individual’s citizenship and identify or locate someone of uncertain immigration status. The larger focus behind the policy is that county employees cannot inquire about a person’s citizenship status and cannot share any identifying information with federal law enforcement agencies.

“This work [Trust Policy] was meant to complement the recently signed General Order that enhanced the Fairfax County Police Department’s longstanding restrictions on involvement in civil immigration cases and established clear guidelines for police contact with immigrant communities,” said some Board of Supervisors members. “While there are no known instances of employees voluntary sharing information about a resident’s immigration status, such policies are no doubt critical steps forward in building community trust and transparency.” They explained that it also helps quell fear in the community and makes sure everyone feels comfortable getting assistance from local government.

“For several years, the Fairfax County Police Department proactively released weekly arrest data on the department’s website. In January of 2021, the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors adopted the county’s new Trust Policy which outlines how certain information can be shared with the community,” said 2nd Lt. James Curry, FCPD Public Affairs Bureau. “After the policy was adopted, a review of the department’s proactive public information sharing was conducted by a community group and we were directed to remove the data set in accordance with the policy.”

The move comes after immigrant rights and civil liberties group advocated for the change. Their reasoning was that ICE could use the details to target undocumented immigrants for deportation. Two of those advocates said that FCPD was the agency with the biggest trust deficit in Fairfax and claimed they ignored the policy, according to an article published in the Connection newspaper September 22.

“FCPD’s publication constitutes an unwarranted invasion of privacy and undermines the presumption of innocence to which we are all entitled,” said Diane Burkley Alejandro and Luis Aguilar. Alejandro, a social justice attorney and lead advocate for ACLU People Power Fairfax, and Aguilar, the Virginia executive director of CASA, the largest immigrant advocacy group in the mid-Atlantic, helped craft the Trust Policy for Fairfax County. They called the on FCPD to “take down the list of shame.”

In a statement, ICE said it’s Enforcement and removal operations does not use police blotter data to identify immigration enforcement targets in Fairfax County but that their officers use “intelligence driven leads to identify specific individuals for arrest.”

“I’m extremely disappointed that Fairfax County will stop publishing the police blotter which enabled crime maps for each area to be shared online,” said Robert P. Muskett, member of the Brookfield Neighborhood Watch Program. “These maps are important tools for neighborhood watch groups and residents.”

Crime maps will go dark because the data was used to power them, according to Anthony Guglielmi, FCPD spokesman. But, he said they are exploring other ways to bring back the information without disclosing names which would be contrary to county policy.

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