Longtime Manassas police chief to retire

Police Chief John J. Skinner, 57, plans to move to Phoenix to be closer to family.
Police Chief John J. Skinner, 57, plans to move to Phoenix to be closer to family. (Manassas Police)
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By Jennifer Buske
Thursday, February 4, 2010

For more than a decade, John J. Skinner has led the Manassas Police Department and protected city residents.

Now, he said, it's time to watch over and be a leader for someone else: his young grandchild.

On Monday, Skinner announced that he will retire in May after serving as the city's police chief for 12 years. Skinner, 57, said he plans to move to Phoenix with his wife, Shirley, to be closer to his son and granddaughter, who will turn 2 in May.

"I'd like to spend more time with my family and would like to do some traveling," Skinner said. "I also think that it's time for some fresh leadership in the department."

Skinner is the second-longest-serving police chief in the department's history, and under his leadership, the department achieved national accreditation from the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies. Only 2 percent of departments across the country receive such accreditation, city officials said.

"In my experience, John Skinner is one of the finest career public servants I've met," Mayor Harry J. "Hal" Parrish II (R) said. "He is a very solid, knowledgeable man who cares about this community and always did top-notch work."

One of Skinner's crowning achievements, city officials said, was creating a strong community policing program in which law enforcement officials work closely with neighborhood watch groups and residents.

Over the past 12 years, Skinner has implemented immigration enforcement initiatives and established a civil disturbance unit. Crime in Manassas dropped last year was to its lowest level in the past 10 years.

"One of the finest things he has done for the community is build a highly professional, highly trained department," City Manager Lawrence D. Hughes said, adding that it is unclear who will replace him. "He has created a police department where when you see a police officer, you know you will get good assistance."

Looking back at his career in Manassas, Skinner said he is proud to have spearheaded the construction of the animal shelter and the formation of the animal adoption program. He said he is also proud to have started the Sgt. John D. Conner III Memorial Scholarship Foundation. The foundation honors Conner, who was killed in the line of duty more than 20 years ago, and has provided more than $70,000 in scholarships to children of Manassas Police Department staff members.

What Skinner said he will miss most: his roughly 135 staff members.

"I've enjoyed working with so many exceptional and well-educated people," Skinner said. "We've all shared in many successes over the last 12 years, but I will miss the people the most."

Before joining the Manassas department, Skinner served as a U.S. Secret Service uniformed police officer and with the Fairfax City Police Department as a patrol officer, then police chief. In 2002, Skinner received a drug-enforcement award from the U.S. Department of Justice. He is also an active member of the FBI National Academy Associates, a law enforcement leadership network, and the Virginia and international associations of chiefs of police.

Once retired, Skinner said, he will probably work part time as a training consultant and volunteer with the Phoenix police. He and his wife will also escape during the summers to their cottage in the Thousand Islands region near the St. Lawrence River along the U.S.-Canadian border. There, he plans to fish.

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