Neighborhood Watch Update

By Chuck Foster Fairfax County Police Department (FCPD) is charged with serving our community. It might be helpful to get a better understanding of the department, given its importance to our safety and quality of life. To that end, we explore two documents that were recently published: the FCPD Officer Survey and the FCPD 5-year Strategic Staffing Plan.       

FCPD Officer Survey
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The survey was independently conducted by the George Mason University Department of Criminology, Law and Society. At the time of the survey, there were 1,421 sworn officers eligible to participate. The response rate, at 71%, was considered high. The survey included 74 questions that covered the following topics:

  • Assessment of department goals and functions
  • Assessment of department strategies and programs
  • Job satisfaction
  • Salary/compensation
  • Promotional aspirations and job opportunities
  • Workplace climate
  • Officer preparedness
  • Assessment of department’s response to people experiencing mental health crisis
  • Perceptions of use-of-force training and policies
  • Perceived public support
  • Officer health and wellness
  • Officer demographics and other characteristics

What follows is some of the information revealed by the survey (percentages are rounded for brevity):

  • The officer corps is primarily male (86%) and white (82%). Only 12% are 50 years of age or older. Fifty-two percent have a bachelor’s degree and 14% have an associate’s degree. Eighteen percent reported being proficient in a language other than English. Interestingly, only 26% are residents of Fairfax County. 
  • Respondents had a positive assessment of the department’s ability to meet goals, such as preventing crime, solving major crimes, and handling people suffering a mental health crisis. Officers also gave very high marks for their preparedness to handle different types of people effectively, such as juveniles, the elderly, undocumented immigrants, racial and ethnic minorities, and people under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
  • Respondents gave high marks for their understanding of the department’s use-of-force policy and their ability to comply with it. 
  • Officers feel they have solid support from the community overall but less so from minorities.
  • The survey’s most negative ratings were in the areas of workplace climate, management practices, compensation, potential for advancement, and internal affairs. In addition, respondents reported a good work/life balance but not enough sleep per night.

As “customers” of the FCPD, we should be highly encouraged by officers reporting that they are well prepared to achieve the goals of the department and to handle a wide variety of scenarios successfully. However, perceptions of poor internal leadership and uncompetitive compensation should be of concern given the impact on morale.           

The FCPD Officer Survey can be viewed at:

FCPD 5-Year Strategic Staffing Plan
The department’s 5-year staffing plan is a comprehensive and detailed document spanning 83 pages. Future challenges noted in the plan include the opioid crisis, cyber-related crime, the growth in investigative complexity, urbanization, daytime population growth, and overall population growth. One particular challenge noted in the plan will be the continuing growth in the Tysons Corner area and the growth in the urban corridor leading to Dulles Airport, which is facilitated by the expansion of the Silver Line. The population of Fairfax County is expected to grow to 1.2 million by 2025.
The plan requests 163 additional uniformed officers and an additional 43 civilian positions. Bureaus requesting staffing increases include Administrative Support, Cyber and Forensics, Information Technology, Major Crimes, Media Relations, Operations Support, Organized Crime and Intelligence, Patrol, Planning and Research, and Resource Management.

The Patrol Bureau has the largest new headcount request at 113. Additional hires would be used to staff the new South County District Station, increase capacity for Community Outreach and Youth Education, implement a Training Relief Squad, and increase the size of the Tysons Urban Team. The plan discusses the challenges associated with serving a community experiencing significant “vertical growth” (multi-story buildings). The plan also discusses the unacceptably high amount of patrol resources that are being diverted to handle calls at and around the Reston Town Center.

It’s good to know that our county’s police department is carefully planning for the expected growth in the demand for police services over the next five years. It will be interesting to see how much of the requested resources receive funding.

The FCPD 5-Year Strategic Staffing Plan can be viewed at:

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