UPDATED – Police chief tries to put cover-up behind him by shamefully rewriting history

UPDATE

After I wrote this in the early afternoon, Colonel Roessler clarified his statement. This is from an update to Tom Jackman’s story at washingtonpost.com:

(John Geer’s partner Maura) Harrington responded, “It’s interesting how somebody can rewrite the past like that, to their favor.”

Earlier Monday, prior to Roessler’s statement, (Fairfax Commonwealth’s Attorney Ray) Morrogh said of the police refusal to cooperate on the Torres internal files, “I’ve never seen anyone act like that in a position of trust, withholding information. It really hurt all the people involved. It was dead wrong. I hope it never happens again.”

Roessler clarified on Monday evening that he was referring to the investigation by his homicide detectives and the truthful testimony by the other officers, not to the dispute over the Torres internal affairs files. “The men and women told the absolute truth,” Roessler said, “there’s over 11,000 pages which show that. There’s no blue wall of silence. That’s what I want the community to know. There was legal advice given [on the internal affairs files], I’ve put processes in place to deal with that. Like Ray said, we never want this to happen again.”

Sorry chief, you are still rewriting history. There was a blue wall of silence and you were the leader of it. We have known since at least January of 2015 the officers and investigators served the people well. That has not been in doubt and has been reported on dutifully by Tom Jackman and others. But you, some of your command staff, the county executive’s office, the county attorney’s office and much of the political leadership in the county failed us miserably over a very long time. Your statements today are as bad as your long silence after John Geer’s death.

At this point, to still blame this on the advice of an attorney is unconscionable. You should know as well as anyone that your oath of office should have trumped the advice given by that attorney. Sadly, for you, the Geer family and for those you serve, it didn’t.

Your statements today show that, almost three years after this crime occurred, you and the rest of the leadership are still in denial and refuse to come clean about this sad episode in Fairfax County history. Shame on you.

EARLIER

There was a guilty plea to manslaughter this (Monday) morning by former Fairfax County (VA) Police Department officer Adam Torres in the August, 2013 shooting death of John Geer. This is the case that brought about a lengthy and shameful cover-up by the leadership of Fairfax County and its police department.

Not long after the news broke of the plea, Colonel Edwin C. Roessler Jr., the chief of the Fairfax County Police Department issued a statement. Unfortunately, the statement illustrates just how little those in charge in Fairfax County have learned from their deplorable actions following John Geer’s death.

Here’s the statement in its entirety:

VA Fairfax Roessler statement 4-18-16

Previous coverage of the Geer case

“The men and women of the Fairfax County Police Department have fully cooperated with authorities during this investigation.” Really?

Yes, the officers who witnessed the shooting and those who investigated the case deserve high praise and admiration for the way they performed their jobs in a very difficult situation. But the best information I have is that Colonel Roessler and the FCPD command staff are also some of “the men and woman of the Fairfax County Police Department.” Those “men and women” did anything but cooperate with “authorities.” Instead, they fought with prosecutors in Virginia, the U.S. Attorney’s Office and the Justice Department in an effort to withhold key information about Officer Torres. One captain even went so far as to secretly record a conversation with a prosecutor.

Don’t just take my word for any of this. Read Tom Jackman’s excellent summary of events since August 2013 that was published at 10:39 this morning at washingtonpost.com. It gives a rather complete picture of just how much Colonel Roessler and company “cooperated” with authorities during this investigation.

The article also clearly shows the other steps Fairfax County took to keep the truth about the shooting hidden for a very long time. The work of Colonel Roessler and many others in leadership positions whose fingerprints are all over the Geer case is not something to be proud of. Spare us this public display of patting yourselves on the back. If your goal is to really put this behind us, you should have long ago come out with a complete accounting of who did what and why, along with what steps have been taken to prevent such a cover-up from happening again.

This “ridiculous” statement by the man who is supposedly going to lead FCPD into an era of transparency shows, once again, why new leadership is long overdue. This statement is an insult to all of us who live in Fairfax County and especially to the loved ones and friends of John Geer.

We’ve long heard those who don’t learn history are doomed to repeat it. I’m not sure what they say about those who try to rewrite history, but I believe those people don’t deserve our respect or trust.