I’ve Agreed To Serve On A Local Commission Investigating Police Transparency


3-20-15  I’ve been asked to serve on an Ad Hoc Police Practices Review Commission here in Fairfax, Virginia that has been created in the wake of a troubling police shooting and alleged cover-up — along with the recent death of Natasha McKenna in the Fairfax County Adult Detention Center.

On February 10, 2015, I reported that McKenna, who had a mental illness, had suffered cardiac arrest and died after she had been shot with a taser at least four times while deputies were forcing her to leave her cell. I also revealed that she had been struck in the head by a deputy during an earlier confrontation. The media frenzy that followed prompted Fairfax officials to promise a thorough and transparent investigation.

However, so far the only press statement issued about the 37 year-old mother’s preventible death failed to reveal key facts and intentionally excluded details about McKenna’s final hours. (Investigators still have not specified how many times a taser was used on McKenna or acknowledged that she was struck in the head during that earlier altercation.)

On Wednesday, The Washington Post (which already has written two editorials about the McKenna case) published another editorial chastising officials for still not telling the public what happened inside the jail.

My first reaction when I was asked to join the Ad Hoc Police Commission was to refuse.

The reporter in me was skeptical about how serious Fairfax County Supervisor Chairman Sharon Bulova was about probing problems inside the police department and sheriff’s office when it comes to revealing information to the public about police involved shootings. The ongoing foot-dragging about the McKenna investigation suggests that Fairfax law enforcement officers haven’t changed their bunker mentality. My fears increased after rumors spread that the commission was stacked with law enforcement officers, including at least one who was in charge of the police department when it was accused of covering up the shooting death of John Greer. 

Complaints forced Bulova to add more members from the public to the commission, including my friend, Robert Cluck, a stalwart of the National Alliance on Mental Illness Chapter in Northern Virginia, whose son had a serious mental illness and died unexpectedly.  Another member is Nicholas Beltrante, who formed the Virginia Citizens Coalition for Police Accountability, in 2010 after David Masters, who had a mental illness, was fatally shot at a traffic light. Masters had taken  flowers from outside a local business without paying for them. At the time, Beltrante, a former D.C. police officer, pointed out that between 2006 and 2010, Fairfax police had fatally shot nine individuals. Beltrante, who is in his 80s, has been raising hell for the past five years, but until now has had little success in getting the public to listen.

When I saw their names on the commission, I agreed to serve. (I am identified as a member of the media on the commission.) One of my goals will be to stress that McKenna never should have ended up in jail given the circumstances of her arrest and her mental illness. (Click here for more about that.)

The group’s first meeting will be Monday at 7:30 p.m. in Rooms 9-10 of the Fairfax County Government Center at 12000 Government Center Parkway, Fairfax, Virginia, and is open to the public. I hope the meeting attracts a huge crowd!

The question on everyone’s mind is whether this commission will do a credible job and produce useful recommendations in October that will improve communications and policy or whether it will be a public relations ploy.

Here’s a list of commission members:


  • Jeff Stewart, Resident, Chantilly
  • Adrian Steel, Resident, McLean
  • Nicholas Beltrante, Virginia Citizens Coalition for Police Accountability
    • John Lovaas, Resident, Reston (Alternate)
  • Tim Thompson, President, Fairfax County Federation of Citizens Associations
    • Daniela Cockayne, Federation Public Safety Chair (Alternate)
  • Shirley Ginwright, Chairman, Communities of Trust Committee, President, Fairfax County NAACP
  • Sal Culosi, Resident
  • Michael Kwon, Resident
  • Robert Cluck, National Alliance on Mental Illness
  • Phil Niedzielski-Eichner, Former Fairfax County School Board
  • Jim Diehl, FCPD Citizens Advisory Committee, Reston


  • Det. Sean Corcoran, Fairfax Coalition of Police Local 5000
  • Det. John Wallace, Fairfax County Police Association
  • Brad Carruthers, Fairfax Fraternal Order of Police, Lodge 77
  • Greg Fried, Southern States Police Benevolent Association
  • Lt. Gervais Reed, Fairfax Black Law Enforcement Officers Association
  • Lucy Caldwell, civilian public information officer
  • Lt. Col Tom Ryan
    • Maj. Joe Hill (alternate)
  • Maj. Ron Kidwell, Fairfax County Sheriff’s Office
  • Hassan Aden, International Association of Chiefs of Police


  • Douglas R. Kay, Fairfax Bar Association president-elect
  • Bob Ross, former deputy county attorney (retired)
  • U.S. Department of Justice’s National Institute of Justice (Invited)
  • Joseph Cammarata, Chaikin, Sherman, Cammarata, Siegel, P.C.
  • Eric Clingan, The NOVA Law Firm


  • Robert Kane – Drexel University, Director and Professor, Criminology and Justice Studies Program (Fairfax County resident)
  • Amy Dillard, University of Baltimore, Associate Professor of Law
  • Jack L. Johnson, PricewaterhouseCoopers, public sector practice


  • Peggy Fox, WUSA9
  • Mary Kimm, Connection Newspapers
  • Merni Fitzgerald, former director of public affairs (retired)
  • Representative from the Virginia Coalition for Open Government (Invited)
  • Pete Earley, Author, Blogger

County Staff (Ex-officio members/supporting roles)

  • David Rohrer, Deputy County Executive for Public Safety
  • Tony Castrilli, Director, Office of Public Affairs
About the author:

Pete Earley is the bestselling author of such books as The Hot House and Crazy. When he is not spending time with his family, he tours the globe advocating for mental health reform.

Learn more about Pete.