Fairfax County’s newly appointed police chief says he will focus on increasing the diversity of Virginia’s largest force and retooling its policing for an area rapidly urbanizing with the redevelopment of Tysons Corner and the arrival of Metro’s Silver Line.
To head the 1,350-member force, the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday unanimously selected Edwin C. Roessler Jr., a veteran officer who has been acting chief since March. The appointment follows a nine-month national search to replace David M. Rohrer, now a deputy county executive.
“I’ve personally been a victim of crime, and it’s unacceptable,” Roessler said (his personal cars were vandalized; the culprits were caught). “We are going to continue to partner with this great community to continue to making this the safest place to live.”
Roessler said he will convene a chief’s council chaired by a prominent member of the community to work on the force’s diversity, which he said had “significant gaps in all categories” and does not reflect the county it serves. The disparity concerning Hispanics is particularly striking: They make up 15 percent of the county’s population but about 4 percent of the police force.
The county’s crime rate hit an all-time low in 2011, and its department is well-regarded nationally, but Roessler said that Fairfax’s growth presents a new challenge for a suburban force.
More high-rises, greater density and a new Metro line will mean officers will have to adopt strategies of city police forces. For instance, he said, there could be two-person patrols, more officers on bikes and more preparation for patrolling at transit stops.
Supervisor Pat Herrity (R-Springfield) said that Roessler faces a balancing act. “The biggest thing we have to deal with is urbanization and the coming of rail while maintaining the crime prevention we have in suburban neighborhoods,” Herrity said. “The question is, how do we do both without losing either one?”
Herrity said supervisors had authorized 11 new positions for the department, including nine for a planned Tysons Corner police station set to open in about a decade.
Roessler said the department is on track to move into a new headquarters “somewhere in the 2016 range” to replace its aging building. He also promised to provide more information to the media and the public.
Roessler was widely regarded as a front-runner for the job, given his broad experience with the department and its long history of selecting chiefs from its own ranks. Over 24 years, Roessler headed the patrol division, the internal-affairs bureau, the training academy, and the budget and human resources department. He has coordinated police responses to a variety of natural disasters and directed strategic planning for the county’s growth.
It was that wide-ranging background that won him the job, said Sharon Bulova, the board’s chairwoman.
“Chief Roessler is well respected in law enforcement and in the community and has a great amount of experience, specifically within the Fairfax County Police Department,” Bulova (D) said in an e-mail.
The search for Rohrer’s replacement began in September, when he announced he would be taking the deputy county executive job. After a national search, a panel of about 20 community members — from those in police unions to faith leaders — considered 40 to 50 candidates and recommended three finalists to the Board of Supervisors.
Roessler will make $188,000 a year in his new job. He is a native of New York, where he started his law enforcement career. He lives in Centreville.
Officer Joseph Woloszyn, president of the Fairfax County chapter of the Police Benevolent Association, said that Roessler has been “hands on” as acting chief. He said Roessler did a ride-along with an officer in his unit on a Saturday night in May.
“So far, he’s been making some good moves,” Woloszyn said. “He’s been going around to squads and talking to them about issues they have. He’s out there.”