Fairfax Police Fear Losing Public Trust: Arrests of Cops in Bank Robbery, Theft Cases Put Department on Defensive

Article excerpt

When Fairfax County police arrested Jeffrey R. Hand last week, they were making history - but not the kind they want remembered in the record books.

Officer Hand, a 23-year veteran officer who could have retired three years ago, was accused of walking into a Burke bank on May 22 with a mask and a shotgun and demanding money. His arrest made him the first officer in recent memory to be charged with a violent crime.

But he is not the only county officer to find himself on the wrong side of the law lately.

Just five weeks before Officer Hand's arrest, Detective Michael D. Kerns was convicted of malfeasance after investigators found property recovered in commercial robbery investigations - computer games, a radio, a tool kit and other items - in his home and office.

The cases have left county police and their supporters scratching their heads.

"There are 1,100 uniformed police officers," said David G. Smith, principal of West Springfield High School where Officer Hand has been a school resource officer since 1995. "An allegation against one is not an indictment of them all. . . . I hope people will remember that."

Lt. Col. David R. Franklin, who announced the arrest Thursday of Officer Hand, said it is "just an anomaly."

"The bigger you get, something is going to happen," said Col. Franklin. "We have almost 1,500 officers and civilian employees."

At the West Springfield District Station where Officer Hand worked - and from which officers responded to the bank robbery for which he now stands charged - the reaction was one of "utter disbelief."

"The whole station is saddened and shocked," said Capt. …