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Fairfax County officials are in the midst of a nationwide search for a new police chief, and the McLean Citizens Association (MCA) has a few thoughts on traits the new hire should have.
The new chief should be able to speak multiple languages, have strategic-planning skills and be willing to listen and communicate with the county’s residents and police officers, wrote MCA president Robert Jackson in a March 9 letter to Board of Supervisors Chairman Jeff McKay (D).
Fairfax County Police Chief Edwin Roessler Jr. retired in February after 32 years with the county’s police force, including eight as chief. David Rohrer, deputy county executive for public safety, is serving as interim police chief while officials conduct their search for Roessler’s successor.
Jackson’s letter to McKay praised Roessler’s performance, saying he had promoted transparency and police accountability, but indicated there still are opportunities to do better.
“MCA believes that more needs to be done to improve accountability in the FCPD, including completion of body-cam implementation, increasing racial sensitivity training and fair, but appropriate, disciplinary actions for officers that use excessive force on, or are abusive of, minority residents,” the letter read.
Given reports of dissension within the police department’s ranks, the new chief should be able to address rank-and-file concerns while implementing appropriate reforms, Jackson wrote.
Some residents who participated in a Feb. 12 community forum with executive-recruiting firm POLIHIRE regarding desired characteristics of the new police chief stressed the importance of transparency and ongoing community involvement, the letter read.
“The goal should be to strike the right balance between community concerns and the need for an effective police function,” Jackson wrote. “We agree with the view that POLIHIRE should ask candidates not only about changes they believe are needed but also what they have done in previous positions to make change happen.”
The new chief also should be able to develop short- and long-term solutions for Fairfax County’s unique policing challenges, which include the jurisdiction’s size and diverse population. There also is a large federal presence in the county, so the future chief will need to be able to interact and cooperate with multiple federal military and security forces, the letter read.
While Roessler had fans among some on the Board of Supervisors, he was less well-liked by some of his officers and the professional organizations that represent them. His inability to juggle the two constituencies helped lead to his departure.