“When this was forced on us, we had no experience with it, and there were legal and moral implications,” Deane said. “I saw from the beginning that the safest course for this county was to do the screening post-arrest. . . . We are responsible for providing police services to everyone, regardless of their status.”
Deane has earned a national reputation for the same straightforward approach he displayed during the immigration debate and for calm during crisis — hallmarks of his 24-year tenure as chief in Prince William. A firm, Southern gentleman, Deane has led his department through monumental change in both the county and in policing, maintaining his country sensibilities while facing the challenges of a modern, fast-growing community.
Just shy of his 67th birthday, Deane plans to leave, 42 years after he helped open the department in what was then a sleepy Virginia outpost of dairy farms. Although Prince William has become a bustling Washington bedroom community, the police department’s one constant has been Deane. Many in the county said Wednesday that it is the end of an era.
“Prince William has been a very exciting, dynamic place to work,” Deane said in an interview this week before he announced his retirement. “It’s just as exciting today. The challenges are different, and the world is more complex. But we’ve developed a department that is second to none, and it’ll be in good hands.”
Law enforcement officials across the country consider Deane one of the best in the field, having distinguished himself on the immigration issue but also for leading his department through some of the most notable crimes in the region’s history, including the Washington area sniper shootings, the “East Coast Rapist” investigation and the 1993 Lorena Bobbitt case.
When Deane began as chief in Prince William, the county had 200,000 residents. Cellphones barely existed, police didn’t have DNA evidence and the Internet — and the crimes created by it — was barely imaginable. Deane had 239 officers and a budget of $16 million.
Prince William has since doubled in population. The county is now home to Potomac Mills mall and a large concert venue. Police cars have computers and license-plate readers, the department has its own training academy and forensics lab, and Deane has diversified what is now a force of nearly 600 sworn officers and a budget of $80 million.