Fairfax County supervisors on July 19 approved action taken by county officials this spring to apply for $215,000 in funding under the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Targeted Violence and Terrorism Prevention Grant Program.
If the county wins the grant, the Fairfax County Police Department will use the funds to develop a threat-assessment-and-management team to “identify and divert individuals who may be at risk to radicalize or mobilize to violence prior to any encounters with law enforcement,” county staff wrote in a briefing memorandum.
County police would build upon local and state initiatives that already try to engage and divert people experiencing mental-health issues when they encounter law enforcement. The team would consist of law-enforcement, mental-health and community-services personnel and would use national best practices, officials said.
County officials applied for the grant earlier to meet the May 18 filing deadline, and the Board of Supervisors without discussion unanimously approved the action with its slate of consent-agenda items. The grant would not require a local cash match, and no new staff positions would be created.
In addition to forming the new team, the county plans to conduct quarterly awareness training for community members and partners. The training curriculum will examine behavioral indicators of mobilization or radicalization to violence and how the public can refer to people to law enforcement if there appears to be a risk of imminent harm, officials said.
According to county officials, the most significant terrorist threat facing the country stems from lone offenders and small groups of people who commit violent acts. Such people may be motivated by racial, ethnic, political, religious, anti-government, societal or personal ideological beliefs or grievances, staff wrote.
“Pandemic-related stressors also have contributed to increased societal strains and tensions, including grievances over public-health measures and perceived government restrictions,” county staff wrote. “Violent extremists’ motivations and grievances are often influenced and exacerbated by conspiracy theories online in the form of misinformation [and] disinformation. Many violent extremists exploit online platforms to spread hate, sow discord and division, and promote narratives to encourage violence.”
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