Rebecca Edwards is no longer the Dumfries police chief.
“I didn’t resign. I wasn’t fired,” she said this week. “I am not going to accept the new job responsibilities.”
During the Aug. 3 Dumfries Town Council meeting, it voted 4-to-3 to make changes to the Dumfries Police Department to establish 24-hour police coverage during this fiscal year.
Among the changes were: reduce Edwards’ salary by more than 25 percent – from $95,817 to $70,000 – and change her duties to include making patrolling a major part of her job, and eliminate two positions within the department.
Mayor Jerry Foreman, who is also acting town manager since Dan Taber resigned July 5, sent Edwards a letter five days later – Aug. 8 – telling her she needed to sign off on the letter that included the changes to her job and her pay reduction by Aug. 22. Otherwise, she would be paid out her annual leave and compensatory leave upon termination, Edwards said.
Foreman did not respond to a request for comment on this story.
“In response to your letter of Aug. 8 to me regarding the workforce reduction in the police department and the reduction in the scope and responsibilities of my position, I am hereby advising you that I do not intend to remain in the position of chief of police under the new job description and salary. I assume my last day of employment will be Aug. 22,” Edwards wrote back to Foreman.
Her last day was Monday, as was police Capt. Jose Vazquez and police records clerk Bettina Cannon. Their names and photos were removed from the town website by Tuesday morning.
Edwards said she waited to give Foreman her response until after his court date for petty larceny involving his alleged stealing of a campaign sign belonging to then Vice Mayor Willie Toney, five days before the May 3 town election.
A resident saw Foreman take the sign and wanted action taken, town officials said at the time. Edwards was the charging Dumfries police officer.
Foreman pleaded no contest to trespassing, a lesser charge, on Aug. 18. In a no contest plea, a defendant does not admit guilt but does not dispute the charge. (See the story on page 5.)
In the letter Edwards gave to Foreman a day after his court proceeding, she also wrote, “I have concluded that I would not be able to successfully serve the town in the restructured position of chief of police. I take this action regretfully but am convinced that the changes being imposed on my job duties and the department itself pose too many obstacles to effective service and management of the police department.”
In her conclusion, she wrote, “I feel my contributions as a member of the Dumfries Police Department have made a positive impact on the Dumfries community.”
She was recognized in May by her peers for her efforts to turn around the once problematic department.
“We encourage you and your officers to stay the course because you are making a difference,” A.J. Panebianco, chairman of the Virginia Association of Chiefs of Police Professional Image and Ethics Committee, wrote to Edwards. “In our view you have reestablished Dumfries as a professional and ethical police department and we thank you because it reflects well on all of us.”
Panebianco noted that Edwards “inherited a police department that was plagued with issues ranging from misconduct to poor performance to everything in between. The town was fortunate in their selection of you as you have built upon the hard work of the transitional chiefs and then plowed ahead to create a professional and ethical agency.”
The shake-up and then the revamping of the Dumfries Police Department began in 2010.
Taber said this week he was “very disappointed” to learn Edwards had left the department. He noted that the department had made many positive changes since 2010 such as higher hiring standards and increased training.
“As a result, the department has earned a reputation as a profession police agency concerned about the community they serve. A lot of the credit for that goes to Chief Edwards and the outstanding staff she developed,” said Taber, a retired Prince William police officer who held the Dumfries police chief job before he became the town’s manager. “She remains a true police professional and an outstanding police manager.”
Edwards was named police chief in July 2013. She has previously served as second in command of the department for 18 months.
Edwards has about 28 years of law enforcement experience.
Before Edwards and the captain left the department, it would have been fully staffed at 11 when its recruit finishes the police academy. Sgt. Mike Fink has been named action police chief. There is one other sergeant, a school resource officer, five officers and one recruit.