Police Violence Casts Shadow on Sporting Event

In late June and early July, thousands of police officers and fire service workers from around the world will converge on Fairfax County, Va., a suburb of Washington, D.C., to participate in an Olympic-style competition known as the World Police & Fire Games.

The 10-day-long games will feature traditional athletic events such as track and field and boxing. Police officers also will be eligible to compete in police pistol combat events and service dog competitions that include narcotics detection and subduing suspects.

The games’ organizers, the California Police Athletic Federation, tout the biennial event as one of the world’s largest multi-sport events, second only to the Olympics in terms of the number of participants. First held in 1985 in San Jose, Calif., the games are open to active and retired law enforcement officers and fire service personnel. About 12,000 athletes from more than 70 countries are expected to compete in 61 events in 53 different venues in Fairfax County and other parts of the D.C. metropolitan area from June 26 to July 5.

The previous World Police & Fire Games, held in Belfast, Northern Ireland, were deemed “the best and friendliest ever” games by its organizers. The organizers estimated the cost of the event at about 13 million pounds, or $18 million. The Fairfax County games are expected to cost about $20 million.

After hosting the event in 2013, organizers of the Belfast games expressed disappointment with the number of participants from outside Northern Ireland. “The consequence of lower out of state numbers has a knock-on impact on subsequent monetary targets: commercial bed nights; registration and event entry fees; and economic benefit,” the organizers of the Belfast games said in an event post-mortem released in February 2014.

Following the lead of previous host cities, the Fairfax County government will be lavishing the private event with at least $3 million of taxpayer money. Public funds will be going to the games as the county’s public schools are facing a financial crisis and as the county’s library system is dealing with budget cuts of almost 30% over the past 10 years on a real spending basis.

Despite budget problems with the county’s core services, government officials are excited about the millions they agreed to spend on the games. “Fairfax County has pledged $3 million to host and sponsor the games. With several more million in staffing and public safety to come,” Fairfax County Chairwoman Sharon Bulova, the county’s top elected official, boasted at a 2014 event to promote the games. Bulova declined a request to comment on the World Police & Fire Games for this article.

In 2009, Fairfax County officials highlighted the economic benefit of hosting the World Police & Fire Games when they were competing with their counterparts in Toronto and Winnipeg, Canada, to win the games for 2015. Organizers estimated a regional economic impact of $60 million to $80 million in revenue from the event. Drawing on the Olympics parallel, the Fairfax County games organizers also hired a former Olympic organizer, Bill Knight, to serve as chief executive of its effort.
Some experts aren’t convinced these types of sporting events are big revenue-producers. When it comes to the Olympics, for example, Philip Porter, an economist at the University of South Florida who has studied the impact of sporting events, told The New York Times that the evidence is unequivocal on cities that host the Olympics. “The bottom line is, every time we’ve looked — dozens of scholars, dozens of times — we find no real change in economic activity,” he said.

Whether the World Police & Fire Games gives Fairfax County a big financial boost remains to be seen. What is certain is the event’s athletic competitions will give police officers and fire service personnel an opportunity to show off their athletic prowess.

A contingent from the Baltimore Police Department is likely to make the 40-mile trek south to participate in the games. The World Police & Fire Games will provide an intriguing juxtaposition for the city’s police department: Baltimore’s finest will be hailed as heroes in Fairfax County at the same time that six of their colleagues face criminal charges in the death of city resident Freddie Gray.

Fairfax County itself is under scrutiny for extreme police violence. Earlier this year, the Fairfax County government paid almost $3 million to settle a wrongful death lawsuit brought by the family of a man, John Geer, who was killed by a county police officer while standing in the doorway of his home. On top of the Geer settlement, the county could face another multi-million-dollar lawsuit after members of the Fairfax County Sheriff’s Office recently used a Taser against a woman who was fully restrained in the county jail. The woman died from the delivery of four 50,000 volt shocks from the Taser.

The organizers of the World Police & Fire Games likely are hoping the ongoing focus on police violence in Ferguson, Mo., New York City, North Charleston, S.C., Baltimore and many other cities does not overshadow the games. And Fairfax County residents should not be surprised if the county agrees to spend additional public funds on security due to concerns about protesters showing up at the various events.

Mark Hand covers political action. You can reach him at markhand13@gmail.com

More articles by:

Mark Hand has reported on the energy industry for more than 25 years. He can be found on Twitter @MarkFHand.

Weekend Edition
March 23, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Roberto J. González
The Mind-Benders: How to Harvest Facebook Data, Brainwash Voters, and Swing Elections
Paul Street
Deplorables II: The Dismal Dems in Stormy Times
Nick Pemberton
The Ghost of Hillary
Andrew Levine
Light at the End of the Tunnel?
Paul de Rooij
Amnesty International: Trumpeting for War… Again
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Coming in Hot
Chuck Gerhart
Sessions Exploits a Flaw to Pursue Execution of Meth Addicts
Robert Fantina
Distractions, Thought Control and Palestine
Hiroyuki Hamada
The Eyes of “Others” for Us All
Robert Hunziker
Is the EPA Hazardous to Your Health?
Stephanie Savell
15 Years After the Iraq Invasion, What Are the Costs?
Aidan O'Brien
Europe is Pregnant 
John Eskow
How Can We Live With All of This Rage?
Matthew Stevenson
Why Vietnam Still Matters: Was Khe Sanh a Win or a Loss?
Dan Corjescu
The Man Who Should Be Dead
Howard Lisnoff
The Bone Spur in Chief
Brian Cloughley
Hitler and the Poisoning of the British Public
Brett Wilkins
Trump Touts $12.5B Saudi Arms Sale as US Support for Yemen War Literally Fuels Atrocities
Barbara Nimri Aziz
Iraqi Landscapes: the Path of Martyrs
Brian Saady
The War On Drugs Is Far Deadlier Than Most People Realize
Stephen Cooper
Battling the Death Penalty With James Baldwin
CJ Hopkins
Then They Came for the Globalists
Philip Doe
In Colorado, See How They Run After the Fracking Dollars
Wilfred Burchett
Vietnam Will Win: Armed Propaganda
Binoy Kampmark
John Brennan’s Trump Problem
Nate Terani
Donald Trump’s America: Already Hell Enough for This Muslim-American
Steve Early
From Jackson to Richmond: Radical Mayors Leave Their Mark
Jill Richardson
To Believe in Science, You Have to Know How It’s Done
Ralph Nader
Ten Million Americans Could Bring H.R. 676 into Reality Land—Relief for Anxiety, Dread and Fear
Sam Pizzigati
Billionaires Won’t Save the World, Just Look at Elon Musk
Sergio Avila
Don’t Make the Border a Wasteland
Daryan Rezazad
Denial of Climate Change is Not the Problem
Ron Jacobs
Flashing for the Refugees on the Unarmed Road of Flight
Missy Comley Beattie
The Age of Absurdities and Atrocities
George Wuerthner
Isle Royale: Manage for Wilderness Not Wolves
George Payne
Pompeo Should Call the Dogs Off of WikiLeaks
Russell Mokhiber
Study Finds Single Payer Viable in 2018 Elections
Franklin Lamb
Despite Claims, Israel-Hezbollah War is Unlikely
Montana Wilderness Association Dishonors Its Past
Elizabeth “Liz” Hawkins, RN
Nurses Are Calling #TimesUp on Domestic Abuse
Paul Buhle
A Caribbean Giant Passes: Wilson Harris, RIP
Mel Gurtov
A Blank Check for Repression? A Saudi Leader Visits Washington
Seth Sandronsky
Hoop schemes: Sacramento’s corporate bid for an NBA All-Star Game
Louis Proyect
The French Malaise, Now and Then
David Yearsley
Bach and the Erotics of Spring