Herndon (VA) Police Department | Program Overview Traffic Safety

Herndon (VA) Police Department

State: VA

2022 Finalist Comprehensive Safety

2022 Finalist Officer Traffic Safety

2022 Finalist Comprehensive Wellness

The City of Herndon Police Department serves a residential population of 24,500 citizens over 4.25 square miles. Herndon is located minutes from Dulles International Airport and is 25 miles from Washington DC. The department employs 54 sworn officers and 18 civilian employees and has been nationally accredited through the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement (CALEA) for the past 10 consecutive years.

The Herndon Police Department (HPD) became the law enforcement liaison for a critical public safety mental health survey that was conducted in 2021. Led by the U.S. Marshal’s Service and developed to collect mental health data from first responders, to assess levels of PTSD, anxiety, and depression among the study participants. The HPD received an agency summary quickly due to their lead role in the project and as a result has added to its support resources for its officers and implemented several wellness programs.

A police psychologist was contracted to assist Herndon officers and dispatchers who were struggling with exposure to traumatic events, as well as the daily stresses of the job. The psychologist, who has her own emotional support dog is available to respond and meet with officers and employees who have had a critical incident or are experiencing emotional problems.

Annual wellness educational sessions are mandated for both sworn and professional staff, as well as command staff, as part of HPD’s wellness program.

HPD has a total of seven officers trained in peer support. A retired police officer is also trained, as is one assistant supervisor in the dispatch center. The department has also established an Early Warning System to identify officers in need of structured intervention measures to address problematic behavior and to get officers the help they need.

The HPD created a “Restoration and Recovery Room”, or “nap” to provide officers and dispatchers a safe place to take a 20-30-minute nap, meditate, or otherwise decompress. The department also added a dedicated facility dog to the HPD family to assist officers with daily stress and trauma exposure. In April of 2020, canine Bragg joined the HPD family and had an immediate positive impact on personnel.

The HPD has an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) which offers counseling and support services for personnel at no cost. The EAP can assist with a variety of problems whether personal or job-related. Any employee or family member may initiate a request for help by calling EAP and the services provided are strictly confidential.

Department personnel have 24-hour access to a well-equipped gymnasium that contains functional fitness, strength, and cardio equipment and personnel are provided one hour to work out on-duty during each shift.

Medical physicals are mandated through the Public Safety Occupational Health Center (OHC), depending on the age of the officer. In addition to regular medical tests, exams, and blood work, officers are also given stress tests, vaccines, and chest x-rays at various stages in their career. COVID vaccines and flu shots are also made available.

The Town of Herndon offers access to financial planning resources to all personnel for their Town 457 plans. Employees can work with the Town’s Investment Advisor or use the online Web Education Portal to get assistance.

All HPD officers are issued custom fitted level III soft body armor and required to wear them on duty and while at the range. Officers also have access to lighted ballistic shields and helmets which are carried in the supervisor’s vehicle. The department also issues shotguns that include tactical weapon mounted lights and slings. HPD Officers are also issued Tasers, pepper spray and collapsible batons.

The department removed less-lethal shotguns from service, to eliminate the opportunity to mistakenly load them with live rounds and replaced them with 40mm less lethal launchers capable of discharging foam baton rounds.

HPD has been using body worn cameras (BWC) and in-car cameras for four and a half years and was one of the first agencies in Northern Virginia to use BWCs. The officer’s BWC has a built in GPS so the officer can be located even when out of dash cam view.

The department also has two thermal imaging cameras to search for subjects hidden by darkness.

All officers are issued tactical trauma kits referred to as “Go bags”. Inside these kits are tourniquets, Quick Clot, sucking chest wound patches, bandages, Narcan and an airway tube. All officers are trained in the use of every item in the trauma kit.

The HPD conducts biennial active shooter training independently and with local police agencies and fire departments. During this training, officers must also utilize their trauma bags to provide aid to simulated shooting victims as well as themselves.

HPD has 25 specially trained crisis intervention team (CIT) officers who are available to respond to crisis situations involving mental illness or developmental disability, and all officers also receive de-escalation training. As a result of the department’s efforts, use of force incidents has been reduced from 21 in 2018 to 12 in 2020 and all but four incidents in 2021 involved hands on use of force only.

When the COVID pandemic hit the United States in 2020, the department implemented a thorough safety policy to reduce staff exposure to the virus. This involved strict protocols for the cleaning of the station, patrol vehicles and the issuance of effective Personal Protective Equipment (PPE).

The department has been trained in the tenets of Below-100 to improve safety, especially traffic safety. Sworn officers attend two weeks of Emergency Vehicle Operations (EVOC) training when they go through the academy. After graduation, officers are required to attend EVOC training every three years. However, the EVOC instructors regularly train all sworn officers on pursuit policy, liability and case law.

All HPD police vehicles are equipped with an automatic vehicle locator (AVL) that provides real-time location and tracking management. The new Axon body worn camera system currently being implemented in the department will provide an additional GPS tracking device to assist in quickly locating an officer on foot and away from their vehicle.

The department also has in-car cameras in each of the department’s vehicles that are set to automatically activate when the vehicle reaches 65 mph. The main purpose of this feature is to reduce speeding and capture high-speed emergency response incidents.

All personnel are required to always wear seat belts. Signs were installed on both exit gates to the department’s secured parking lot to remind officers to always buckle up and be cognizant of their speed. Officers are also required by policy to wear their high-visibility traffic vests when working traffic assignments or while working crash scenes on the roadways.

All pursuits are formally investigated and documented through the department’s internal affairs process. When policy violations occur, officers receive discipline in accordance with the seriousness of the violation and past performance. Remedial training is mandated in cases where it is warranted.

To reduce the chances of HPD officers being struck, Tire Deflation Devices stop were recently removed from all department vehicles and eliminated as an authorized tool to stop fleeing vehicles.

The HPD recently obtained a drone to assist in aerial crash reconstruction, which eliminates or limits the need to close roadways or place officers in the roadway.

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Herndon (VA) Police Department | Program Overview Traffic Safety