Elected officials don’t criticize the cops anymore, fearing being tagged with a “soft on crime” label that voters will consider a deal breaker. But Falls Church mayor Robin Gardner has blasted the police in neighboring Fairfax County for their handling of the killing of Steve Cornejo, who grew up in her city.

Cornejo, a former captain of the George Mason High School soccer team, was beaten and killed by a gunshot in the back in June 2005. His killer, Brandon Paul Gotwalt, was never arrested or indicted by Fairfax authorities. Last week, a civil jury found Gotwalt liable for Cornejo’s death and awarded his family a little less than $2 million.

Gardner is unhappy to learn that the incredibly damning evidence against Gotwalt that surfaced in the civil trial never showed up during the criminal investigation into the killing of the popular Cornejo. She’s asking the county auditor to look into the case.

“I want to know why no sufficient investigation was done at the time,” Gardner told the Falls Church News-Press, a community paper that has devoted a lot of coverage to the Cornejo killing from the start. “I am pushing very hard for the county to conduct an internal investigation of what is going on.”

Perhaps the fact that mayor of Falls Church job pays just $3,600 a year helped free up Gardner to say what so many of her citizens are feeling about the case.