Q&A with new Mount Vernon Police District commander
Capt. Marc Mitchell became commander of the Mount Vernon Police District in July 2023. Now in his 16th year with Fairfax County Police Department (FCPD), Mitchell was previously the school liaison commander. In that position, he oversaw the school resource officers assigned to Fairfax County Public Schools. Mitchell also served as the assistant commander for the Reston District Station and was a police liaison commander at the Department of Public Safety Communications. Most of his career was spent in patrol operations, where he worked at six of the eight district stations. Mitchell was involved with community outreach programs and a founding member of the Communities of Trust. Mitchell took time from his busy schedule to answer some questions for On the MoVe. His responses are paraphrased below.
Q. Who will replace community liaison officer Katie Watts?
A. We have an excellent replacement for Katie Watts who is now assigned to our Public Affairs Bureau. MPO John Kaminski is a senior officer out of Sully Police District, and he will join us in mid to late August. At a recent command staff meeting, the commanders at the Sully Police District named him Officer of the Month. The expectation is that he will maintain the transparency, respect, professionalism and responsiveness to questions our district station has worked hard to establish. I look forward to the impact he will bring to our community.
Q. How is District staffing coming along?
A. Staffing is a challenge to our entire profession. Fortunately, FCPD has made significant strides in our recruiting efforts. Our last academy class was the largest in a decade. Mount Vernon Police District is the busiest district in the county. It takes a special type of officer to stay here long-term because it’s easy to get burnt out. Fortunately, our officers are resilient, persevere and believe in our mission. Our station will be getting around 11-13 officers in September who have completed their field training. In the traffic division, we currently have one set officer and soon will increase to two. We also are planning to upstaff our Neighborhood Patrol Unit — officers on bicycles — in September by adding one to two more officers. We still are the destination of choice in Fairfax County but need to get people to commit to the career. There’s still more mountain to climb, but we’re moving!
Q. How goes the Route 1 transition to 35 mph?
A. We’re assessing that now. By the beginning of October, we might have more information. What’s difficult is finding the right spot to do LiDAR/radar for traffic awareness enforcement. We need to be able to pull out quickly yet safely. Along the Fairfax County Parkway, it’s easy to find safe places to pull over to do radar. We’re also finishing up our last cycle of the Road Shark campaign. Citations and warnings are definitely up for this year, as are DWI arrests. Overall crashes are down year to date over 2022. We feel confident that something’s working.
Q. Have you noticed an uptick in vandalism? We’re heard about recent incidents at Mount Vernon Rec Center and Hollin Hall Senior Center.
A. The incident at the rec center is under investigation by the Fire Marshal’s office, and we’re meeting about the senior center problems. We’re talking about increasing visibility by patrol squads and getting neighborhood patrol units involved. We don’t want this to be a trend that becomes a norm because that’s unacceptable to us. We’ll come up with a plan of action to address any issue that pops up in our community.
Q. Could recent vandalism incidents point to gang activity in the area?
A. We don’t have information that the vandalism is related to gang activity. We do have a gang coordinator that reviews trends. Our gang unit has been proactive in Mount Vernon District with visibility and enforcement. They’re working with patrol officers, supervisors and commanders. We are still proud to be the safest jurisdiction of our size.
Q. Anything else you want to share?
A. We’re trying out something new. Right now, you can find information on a lot of the platforms we use like social media and Nextdoor. Those are great — especially Twitter [now known as X – Ed.] for major incidents, events and community initiatives. But the thing is, not everybody is on all those platforms. Sometimes it’s hard to find information. Our Public Affairs bureau is great, so I said we should evolve in how we deliver information. I am hoping on a weekly or biweekly basis to send text alerts on Mount Vernon District to everyone who wants to subscribe. For example, updates on an arrest in a 7-Eleven robbery or ways to provide tips. We’re going to start a pilot program later this month or in September in the Mount Vernon District. If it works, it’s something our entire department might consider adopting moving forward.