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There had been whispers and rumblings that it was coming, but Fairfax County’s police chief made it official two weeks ago, announcing his plan to mosey into retirement not long after the start of the coming year.
The departure of Edwin Roessler Jr. will come just a few months after his counterpart in Arlington, Jay Farr, also retired. They are part of an increasing cohort of police-department leadership across the nation heading off to collect pensions and build new lives.
From our outside perspective, the causes of the departures of Farr and Roessler seem quite different:
• As early as mid-2019, when leftist Parisa Dehghani-Tafti upended moderate Theo Stamos by a narrow margin in the Democratic primary for commonwealth’s attorney in Arlington, the writing was on the wall that the job of policing was going to get a whole lot more complicated in what even before had become known as the People’s Republic of A-town.
Tafti’s arrival in January 2020 proved that fear justified (she and her crew are no fans of the police), and while the level-headed Farr did what he could to help the rank-and-file contend with a prosecutor’s office that seemingly did not have their backs, he obviously decided the time had come to move on and let someone else sort out the complexities.
• Roessler, by contrast, seemed to attempt to go the other direction, trying to reach a working relationship not just with Fairfax’s new (and equally far-left-leaning) prosecutor, Steve Descano, who arrived in early 2020, but also with the moving-leftward-all-the-time Board of Supervisors.
As a result, Roessler’s relations with his own rank-and-file frosted over and ultimately reached a temperature more common in Siberian winters. All the support in the world from elected officials will not be able to ultimately save a police chief who loses the support of those he leads. Give Roessler credit for taking the hint.
From the statements made by the likes of Fairfax Board Chairman Jeff McKay and others once their chief announced plans to toss in the towel, it does not appear that the Board of Supervisors sees its own behavior as in any way having played a role in the disquiet currently percolating among Fairfax’s police, who feel local elected officials do not give them the respect that, in the overwhelming number of cases, they merit.
Words have meaning, and McKay et al would be well-served to spend some time building back bridges with the police rank-and-file, or we are all destined to keep going through a cycle of arriving and departing police chiefs.