Herndon (VA) Police Department | 2023 General Officer Safety Executive Summary

Herndon (VA) Police Department

State: VA

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Herndon (VA) Police Department | 2023 General Officer Safety Executive Summary

2023 Finalist Traffic Safety

2023 Finalist General Officer Safety

2023 Finalist Comprehensive Safety

2023 Finalist Officer Wellness

2022 Finalist Comprehensive Safety

2022 Finalist Traffic Safety

2022 Finalist Comprehensive Wellness

TRAFFIC SAFETY

The Town of Herndon, Virginia, is the third largest incorporated town in the state, covering 4.25 square miles. It’s located in western Fairfax County, near Dulles International Airport, and approximately 25 miles from Washington, DC. The town boasts 11 parks and a police department (HPD) led by Chief Maggie Deboard, comprising 54 police officers and 18 civilian personnel.

Pre-pandemic, HPD received accolades such as the Virginia Law Enforcement Traffic Safety Award for three consecutive years and the Commonwealth of Virginia’s top award for best traffic safety program in 2019.

HPD prioritizes officer safety through various measures, including participation in the Below 100 training program, focusing on areas within an officer’s control like seatbelts, vests, driving tactics, and proper procedures. Sworn officers also undergo two weeks of Emergency Vehicle Operations (EVOC) training during their academy training, with refresher courses every three years. HPD’s EVOC training includes high-speed driving, pursuit operations, cone courses, accident avoidance, and inclement weather driving simulations.

All police vehicles are equipped with automatic vehicle locators (AVL) for real-time tracking. Body-worn cameras with GPS capabilities and in-car camera systems with license plate readers (LPR) provide enhanced tracking and video capture capabilities. Dash cameras activate at speeds exceeding 80 mph, primarily for accountability and pursuit documentation.

HPD conducts monthly video audits of in-car and body-worn cameras, addressing policy violations formally or informally based on severity and officer performance. Accidents involving officers are investigated through the internal affairs process, with specialized traffic accident reconstruction officers handling serious incidents.

HPD enforces seat belt use and mandates high-visibility traffic vests during traffic assignments or accident scenes. Pursuit policy training is conducted annually, emphasizing policy review, case law, liability, and video incident discussions. Pursuits are formally investigated, with discipline and remedial training as needed. Pursuit policy changes have significantly reduced pursuits.

To enhance officer safety, stop sticks were removed from department vehicles due to safety concerns, while roadblocks and pit maneuvers remain authorized tactics for stopping fleeing vehicles, contingent on EVOC training.

HPD obtained a drone through grant funding for accident scene mapping and reconstruction, reducing the need for road closures or officers in the roadway. The program awaits final policy approval.

The agency actively participates in various award categories related to safety and wellness, continuously improving its programs and initiatives.

GENERAL OFFICER SAFETY

HPD equips its officers with essential gear, including custom-fitted level III soft body armor provided through the DOJ Bulletproof Vest Partnership, replaced every five years. Officers have the option to wear vests inside an outer carrier with a concealed handle for officer extraction. Additionally, officers are armed with Glock 9mm handguns, patrol rifles, Tasers, pepper spray, collapsible batons, and backup handguns, with regular qualifications for these firearms.

Officers undergo rigorous training, including live fire tactical shooting, low light shooting, and use of force decision making. HPD transitioned to 40mm less lethal launchers with foam baton rounds, enhancing non-lethal options for handling volatile situations.

The department employs body-worn and in-car cameras for accountability and training purposes, with videos reviewed by commanders. HPD emphasizes the importance of high-visibility vests for officer safety. In 2022, spit masks were introduced to protect officers during arrest situations.

HPD prioritizes crisis intervention training and thermal imaging technology to enhance officer capabilities. Tactical trauma kits (“Go bags”) are issued to all officers, containing essential medical supplies, and officers are trained to use them.

Biennial active shooter training, crisis intervention teams, and de-escalation training contribute to reducing use of force incidents. HPD officers are equipped with Narcan and have saved lives through its use.

The agency has been recognized for its comprehensive safety, officer wellness, officer safety, and officer traffic safety initiatives. HPD continually enhances its programs and seeks recognition in these categories. Please refer to the full submission for additional agency programs and incentives.

COMPREHENSIVE SAFETY

Here’s a concise overview of HPD’s key areas:

Officer Safety:

  • Officers wear custom-fitted level III soft body armor at all times, with replacements funded by the DOJ Bulletproof Vest Partnership every five years.
  • Officers have the option to wear vests inside an outer carrier equipped with handles for safety.
  • HPD provides officers with Glock 9mm handguns, patrol rifles, Tasers, pepper spray, collapsible batons, and backup handguns.
  • Regular weapons qualifications include live fire tactical shooting training.
  • HPD employs less-lethal 40mm launchers and thermal imaging cameras for safety.
  • Officers are equipped with tactical trauma kits (“Go bags”) containing medical supplies.
  • HPD conducts biennial active shooter training.
  • All officers wear high-visibility vests when out of patrol cars.
  • Spit masks were introduced in 2022 to prevent fluid transfer from subjects in custody.
  • 60% of HPD officers have Crisis Intervention Training.

Officer Traffic Safety:

  • The department emphasizes safety measures, including seatbelt use, high-visibility vests, and pursuit policies.
  • Officers receive Emergency Vehicle Operations (EVOC) training every three years, focusing on high-speed driving and decision-making.
  • All police vehicles have automatic vehicle locators (AVL) for tracking and accountability.
  • In-car cameras and dash cameras capture incidents and are subject to random audits.
  • Vehicle accidents are formally investigated, with officers trained in traffic accident reconstruction.
  • The pursuit policy limits pursuits to incidents involving violent crimes or immediate threats to public safety.
  • The use of stop sticks was discontinued due to safety concerns.
  • A drone was obtained for accident reconstruction, enhancing safety.

Officer Wellness:

  • HPD has implemented a comprehensive wellness program, including mental health support.
  • Police psychologists assist personnel dealing with traumatic events.
  • A facility dog provides emotional support.
  • Annual wellness educational sessions are mandatory, reducing the stigma of seeking mental health help.
  • Peer support officers are available for critical incidents.
  • A police chaplain program was initiated in partnership with a local church.
  • An Early Warning System identifies officers in need of intervention.
  • A Critical Incident Reporting System helps document traumatic exposures.
  • A “nap” room was established for rest and meditation.
  • Transcendental meditation training is offered.
  • HPD provides an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) and suicide prevention training.
  • Access to a well-equipped gymnasium is available for personnel.
  • A mandatory fitness program was introduced in 2023.
  • Regular medical exams, stress tests, vaccines, and chest x-rays are provided by the Public Safety Occupational Health Center.
  • COVID vaccines and flu shots are readily accessible.
  • Financial planning resources are available for Town 457 plans.

Recognition:

  • HPD has received recognition and awards in categories like Comprehensive Safety, Officer Wellness, Officer Safety, and Officer Traffic Safety.
  • The department continually improves its programs and seeks recognition.

Overall, the Herndon Police Department prioritizes the safety, wellness, and professional development of its officers while serving the community effectively.

OFFICER WELLNESS

In 2021, the Herndon Police Department (HPD) played a pivotal role as the law enforcement liaison for a critical public safety mental health survey, focused on first responders’ mental health, including law enforcement, fire and rescue, corrections, and dispatchers. The survey revealed high levels of anxiety, depression, PTSD, and suicide ideation among officers. As a response, HPD implemented various wellness programs.

To support their personnel’s mental health, HPD contracted police psychologist services to assist officers and dispatchers dealing with traumatic events and job-related stress. A dedicated facility dog, Canine Bragg, provided additional emotional support. Annual wellness educational sessions are mandated for all staff, removing the stigma around seeking mental health support.

HPD established a peer support program and formed a partnership with the Herndon United Methodist Church to introduce a police chaplain program, offering officers additional resources for coping with difficulties and traumatic incidents.

An Early Warning System identifies officers in need of intervention to address problematic behavior or issues. A Critical Incident Reporting System helps document on-duty traumatic exposures to support future workers’ compensation claims related to PTSD, depression, or anxiety.

To combat sleep deprivation, a Restoration and Recovery Room, or “nap” room, was created, providing a safe space for officers and dispatchers to rest. The department also offers transcendental meditation sessions and has an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) for counseling and support.

HPD promotes physical fitness, with officers having 24-hour access to a well-equipped gym and mandatory fitness programs starting in 2023. Regular medical evaluations are conducted to ensure officers’ continued fitness for duty, including stress tests, vaccines, and chest x-rays.

COVID vaccines and flu shots are readily available, and financial planning resources are offered to personnel for their Town 457 plans. The department has received recognition and continues to improve its comprehensive safety, officer wellness, officer safety, and officer traffic safety programs.

HPD’s commitment to the well-being of its personnel is evident in its multifaceted approach to physical and mental health support, making it a model for other law enforcement agencies.

This summary is only a brief overview of many of the agency’s programs. In the actual submission you will see that the agency has other programs and incentives to benefit its members.  Please review their entire submission and its associated documents to gain a complete understanding of their program.