NORTHERN VIRGINIA (WDVM) — Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring met with law enforcement officials on Tuesday to implement gun violence prevention programs in the region.
Herring is hosting a series of round table discussions across the state.
“I am here to talk with public safety officials to listen to the ideas that they have, their experiences with what’s worked and what hasn’t,” said Herring.
The General Assembly passed AG Herring’s funding request that will allow his office to implement programs across the Commonwealth.
Ahead of the special legislative session, Herring proposed spending $2.5 million from the American Rescue Plan on community-based gun violence prevention programs.
The meeting with Fairfax County Police Department members, as well as the Alexandria Police Department, led to the discussion of the role the pandemic has played in mental health. Officers noted the impact COVID-19 has made on family units and the increase of gun violence.
Police Chief Kevin Davis of the Fairfax County Police Department says the county has seen five homicides within families units this year.
That speaks to the enhanced dynamic of domestic violence and dysfunction and isolation,” said Davis.
Following a nationwide trend, police recruiting and retention is down in both Alexandria and Fairfax County. Officers saying this is leading to a depletion of resources within their departments to respond to mental health calls.
The chief is hoping to implement a ride along program, to pair police officers with mental health professionals when responding to calls.
“Putting police officers who are specifically trained in crisis intervention in the same car with a mental health professional gives us an opportunity to diffuse and deescalate folks who are in mental health crisis,” said Davis.
Officers also pitched the idea of using a texting line, so officers can get ahead of the incident and intervene before those in distress pull the trigger.
“We want to get to them before ‘boom,'” said Davis. ‘We’re responding right at ‘boom’ too often, so we need to get involved in a preventative way as soon as possible.”
Now, officers are searching for ways to reach youth and foster strong, trusted relationships with law enforcement. The Alexandria Police Department is aiming to have officers serve in community groups, after the Alexandria City Council voted to remove its School Resource Officer (SRO) program back in June.