Prince William County police to celebrate 40th anniversary

(Kevin Clark - The Washington Post)
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By Sarah Lane
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, June 24, 2010

When the first Prince William County police officers hit the streets, they didn't carry portable radios. Officers patrolling sleepy neighborhoods for signs of trouble sometimes had to rely on pay phones to stay in touch. And reports were handwritten on carbon paper.

That was 1970, the year the county launched a police force, with 42 officers and a $750,000 budget.

Today the department employs more than 700 people with a budget of $73 million. It has a scuba unit, a motorcycle unit and its own training academy.

"Never in my wildest dreams did I expect this much growth in the community and the department," George T. Owens, who was police chief from 1970 to 1988, said at Tuesday's meeting of the Board of County Supervisors.

On Saturday, the department is scheduled to mark its 40th anniversary with a celebration at the Sean T. Connaughton Community Plaza, next to the James J. McCoart Administration Building at 1 County Complex Ct. in Woodbridge.

Current Police Chief Charlie T. Deane, who was one of the original officers, said the department has handled some challenging issues. Prince William was the site of one of the Washington area sniper shootings in fall 2002. The police have enforced the county's controversial immigration resolution. The department helped at the Pentagon after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

Deane said the department wouldn't be where it is today without Owens's commitment. "Owens established a department focused on honor, integrity and respect to our Constitution, and those values continue," Deane said.

The celebration will include an animal shelter petting zoo, face painting, a moon bounce and a dunk tank. The event also will highlight major events and police investigations over four decades. Festivities will run from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., with a formal program beginning at 11 a.m.

Members of the department's specialty units, including the scuba unit, the SWAT team and the horse-mounted unit, will be on hand throughout the day offering demonstrations.

"I think it will be a nice opportunity for citizens to meet the officers who serve the community and meet some of the officers who founded the department," Deane said.

Capt. Ted McInteer, who joined the police force in 1971 and serves as director of public safety communications, wrote an article describing the changes over the years.

The county was mostly rural when the department was formed, and law enforcement had rested with the sheriff.

As subdivisions began to pop up, Prince William officials decided it was time to create a dedicated county police department.

When McInteer joined the force, he wrote, officers didn't have portable radios or computers. Cellphones were inconceivable. There were fewer ways to communicate -- and fewer ways to get around the county.

McInteer wrote that "the only direct routes through the county were Route 234 and Davis Ford Road which were both curvy, two lane roads."

Staff writer Jennifer Buske contributed to this report.

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