Fairfax City Police Chief Leonard P. Kline, who joined the force with four other officers in 1953, has left 24 years of local law enforcement behind to begin cattle farming in West Virginia.
"After 24 years as a Fairfax police officer, sure I'm going to miss it," said Kline, who at 46 left the force voluntarily. "But I wanted to get out young enough to try my hand at farming."
Deputy Chief of Police Larry F. Wines will serve as acting police chief until the city names a replacement for Kline.
Kline climbed through all the ranks of the city police, serving as acting chief twice before becoming the city's police chief in January 1975.
"He's seen it all; he know as much about the law as anyone I've ever known," said Lt. Robert D. Russell, who was broken in by Kline when he joined Fairfax City police in 1958. "He was dedicated to the city, but he's due for retirement. His job had a lot of stress to it."
Kline, who said he has always preferred street work to the administrative tasks of a police chief, joined the force when he was 22 years old after graduating from Fairfax County High School and serving short stints as a fireman and dispatcher. Policing Fairfax, was a different business then, Kline said.
"People knew each other better," he said. "They watched out for each other's property and such. There's not much room for crime when people band togethr like that."
In those days, Kline's major worry was making sure traffic ran smoothly in the town. "We didn't have traffic lights then. We'd stand out in the middle of the street so nobody would run into each other," he said.
Since then he's watched farm land turn into neighborhoods, the town turn into a city and his own force grow to its present size of 47 men.
"The hardest time for all of us, both the town and the police, was when we became a city in 1966. That's when we grew up you might say," Kline said. "Then we took on our own detective bureau, photographic department and fingerprinting. No more help from the county."
Kline says the growth was ncessary to police the eight square miles of the city but he expressed dismay that police work has become so highly specialized.
"The uniformed man doesn't get the exposure to a variety of cases that he once did," Kline said. "They start missing things and getting into a rut when they know they have to turn a case over to the detective bureau and can't follow up on it themselves. A man does a better job when he has an opportunity to solve a case himself."
Kline said as police work loads increase and budgets become tighter, some jurisdictions tend to eliminate crime prevention services that he believes are "absolutely necessary to reducing crime."
"Fairfax City still gives services like routine house checks and funeral escorts that many jurisdictions have cut out," he said. "I hope the city will continue authorizing services like these."
Another crime prevention service Kline hopes will stay is a "block mother" program. Women who are home much of the day dispaly a star on their front doors or windows to signify that those who need immediate help can come to their homes to get it. The same mothers have also agreed to "keep an eye" on their neighborhoods for suspicious actions and contact police immediately if they spot any, Kline said. The program is active in all of the city's six subdivisions, he added.
Kline claimed that "nothing too much" upset him during his career and that he enjoyed police work. He said, however, that there were some "hard times."
Among cases that most upset him, he said, were separate incidents several years ago in which two Fairfax City policemen were shot, but not killed.
"It does something to you to see so little respect for the law when somebody shoots an officer - the guy who's supposed to be representing authority."
When Fairfax City policemen were discovered in 1975 to be involved with the CIA in a break-in at a local photography studio, Kline admitted that he had knowledge of the incident, but "did not go into the building." He was deputy police chief at the time of the break-in.
"I knew then, just as I know now, that I didn't do anything wrong," he said. "As long as I know that, that's all that is important.
Kline has worked on "every conceivable type of police case," according to some of his colleagues. They have ranged from traffic accidents to murders, with a few oddities thrown in along the way.
During the 1950s, Kline said he helped solve a case in which "a gang worked themselves all the way here from Florida, robbing public telephones all along the way."
Local police arrested the men, all in their twenties, who were "popping off public telephone encasements with a contraption made from a logging hook and an angle iron," Kline said. "They made hundreds of dollars before we got them."
Now Kline plans to "settle down to farming" with his wife, Carlene, and their five children, who range in age from 6 to 18. They have sold the property they owned one mile north of Fairfax City and are moving to a 108-acre farm at Gap Mills, West Virginia. Kline hopes to raise up to 45 head of beef cattle, "once we get set up."
"I was born in a farmhouse right where this city is now, and it's about time I got back to it," he said.