Tires squeaked and gravel flew on the Friday night a car roared through Occoquan. At speeds of up to 70 miles an hour, Sgt. Richard Bull chased the car into the hills near the town before the driver turned off his lights and disappeared.
"The biggest chase I had in my career, the guy got away," Bull said recently, as he sat back and laughed about the most dramatic moment of his 15-year job as the mainstay of the two-person town police force.
Over the years, about half a dozen officers have come and gone, usually moving on to better-paying jobs with larger police departments. The last officer, who went to the Manassas Park force, worked for nine months. Now, after a two-month search, another officer -- retired D.C. police officer Dennis Singleton -- comes on board this week.
Singleton will join Bull in policing a town with little crime. It is more common to see Bull help a shopper open the door of a car after locking the keys in it. Bull takes pride in the fact that he has not drawn his gun once on the job.
"This town's just kind of slow paced and easy, and he fits in very well," said Mayor LaVerne Carson, who moved to Occoquan in 1976, a year after Bull came on the job. "He'll stop and give people directions in the middle of his police work. He's very good for the town."
A suicide was the only violent act Bull could recall as he sat in his small office/police station in the basement of Town Hall.
"We have just about the same stuff as you would in downtown D.C., only on a smaller scale. We've never had a rape or a killing or anything like that and I hope we never do. I'm really thankful to the good Lord above for that," said Bull, whose short-sleeved shirt revealed large tattoos on each forearm from his military days, a sonnet to his mother on one and a "Death Before Dishonor" sword on the other.
Bull began his law enforcement career after retiring from the Army in 1970, when he struck up a conversation with the chief of police in Quantico, who offered him a job. Bull signed up, went off to training in Richmond and did a stint in Dumfries before going to Occoquan.
At 62, Bull says his crime-fighting days may be up in about a year, but for the moment there's plenty to do.
In the past 15 years, the town has sprouted into a bustling antiques and crafts mecca, an aggressively cute and self-consciously historic village with 130 businesses -- more than one for every three residents.
And while usually busy on weekends, the two-day annual craft show at the end of September attracts thousands of tourists. That meant two 15-hour days for Bull a few weeks ago. "Two tough days, you better believe it," he said. "They park all over the place."
The job involves more than just writing tickets, though one year the craft show was good for about 80 citations. It can be as distasteful as sleuthing through illegally dumped trash for clues to culprits, but more often revolves around people -- from checking on senior citizens to talking with the owners of barking dogs.
"I know everyone in the town of Occoquan," Bull said. "It's not excessively big. It's a quiet place."