Hanging Up His Badge

"It used to be we used to have slow periods. That really doesn't happen anymore," says Purcellville Police Chief David Simpson, who is retiring next month after five years as chief. (By Tracy A. Woodward -- The Washington Post)
By Karin Brulliard
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, December 29, 2005

David Simpson will not divulge what, exactly, he will do during his impending retirement. But he will say what it won't involve: golfing, cruises, crossword puzzles or other traditional retirement endeavors.

And definitely not another badge.

After more than three decades in law enforcement in Loudoun County, Simpson will step down next month as Purcellville police chief and say goodbye to the field -- but not to employment. At 55, Simpson figures he has many working years left in him, and he has received several offers. Now it's a matter of choosing the best one.

"I've spent 35 years in law enforcement, and I want to do something else," said Simpson, a Purcellville native with a gentle voice and demeanor. "And it's nice to be able to do something else and not make money the reason you do it."

Purcellville officials say they expect to name a new chief at the Town Council meeting Jan. 10. Town Manager Robert W. Lohr Jr. said the search had been narrowed to three candidates selected from a pool of 105 applicants from across the nation.

Simpson is preparing to leave with memories built on a professional lifetime of small-town and rural community policing.

He began his career as a cub cop in Middleburg, where a big part of the job was breaking up drunken scuffles at the horse races, and will end it after a five-year tenure as the boss in Purcellville, where crime grew with the population. In his career, Simpson was a Leesburg police officer, a Loudoun sheriff's deputy, police chief in Middleburg and a Purcellville officer.

There was the time that Simpson, as Middleburg chief, protected Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis -- "Mrs. Onassis," as Simpson knew her -- from ogling tourists. She and Simpson were chatting on the street when an elderly couple approached and asked Simpson whether he had spotted any famous people -- especially, they said, Jackie O.

Simpson, having learned that Middleburg's celebrity set came there to escape attention, feigned ignorance.

"She looked at me, and we both sort of smiled," he said, chuckling at the memory.

Then there was the time Simpson interrupted a bank robbery in Purcellville and the thief fired at him, barely missing his head. Simpson fired back, wounding the man. It was the first and only time he was fired at or fired at someone, he said.

Then there are the folks he has come to know while patrolling, which he still does when some of the department's 11 officers are out sick or tied up in court. On a recent day, Simpson took his black, unmarked SUV for one of his final spins, a police radio emitting a low crackle as he showed off the town, which has doubled to about 6,000 residents since he became chief.

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