The Herndon police force has received the Virginia Municipal League's annual public safety award for excellence for its "sophisticated" and "innovative" officer training program.
It is the first time the league, which is a statewide association of local governments, has given a public safety award to a town for its police training techniques, said Police Chief George W. Winkel.
The 29-member force was recognized in a special ceremony Sept. 24 in Roanoke for its education program, in which officers participate in monthly four-hour seminars on stress management, hostage situations, teen-age suicide, credit card fraud and other topics.
Winkel started the program in 1983 when he joined the Herndon force after serving 21 years with the U.S. Park Police.
"Based on my experience with the government, I knew about the federal resources available to us at no charge," Winkel said in a telephone interview. He asked officials of federal law enforcement agencies such as the U.S. marshal's office, the FBI and the park police to conduct seminars for his department.
The Municipal League cited Winkel and his squad for being "quite advanced . . . with a special operations unit skilled in the use of weapons and tactics."
An article in the association's magazine said the training sessions helped increase the police officers' "awareness, knowledge, confidence and skill," which resulted in a 15 percent drop in major crimes in 1983 and a 14 percent reduction in 1984.
Winkel attributed the program's success to an "extremely energetic" police department where the average age is between 25 and 26 years old.
"Also, the City Council and the community of Herndon are very supportive . . . . I've never seen a community so supportive of its police department," Winkel said. "It really makes your job more enjoyable."