Eddie Boyd came because he's considering fleeing his high-paying but dull desk job.
Maureen Shea came because she has a criminal justice degree and needs work.
Some police officers came, and asked to remain anonymous, because they wanted to see what other police departments have to offer.
Even before the doors opened yesterday morning at the Dulles Expo Center in Chantilly, dozens of people had lined up for the first regional Law Enforcement Job Fair, designed to help 26 law enforcement agencies find new talent. And the potential recruits streamed through the door continuously, with more than 625 having checked out the sales pitches and free T-shirts of everyone from the Greenbelt police to the CIA by day's end.
The job fair was launched by the Loudoun County Sheriff's Office, which, like most local agencies, is fighting an uphill battle for talented applicants against better-funded, better-paying and more glamorous agencies like the FBI and CIA. Those two federal stalwarts, along with the Drug Enforcement Administration, also set up booths in Chantilly yesterday, and they had the longest lines of any of the participants in the job fair.
As with most suburban jurisdictions, Loudoun is growing rapidly and needs more deputies. The county is adding 60 deputies in the coming year and opening its first substation in the South Riding area, Sheriff Stephen O. Simpson said.
"We need more street cops and investigators, just to keep up with the population," Simpson said.
The FBI, meanwhile, is hiring 1,100 special agents and 3,000 professional support staff, Special Agent Eddie Winkley said. A long line of potential future feds waited to talk to Winkley and his colleagues throughout the day.
Recognizing its competition -- and embracing it, by inviting them to participate -- Loudoun contacted other police and sheriff's agencies to see if they'd be interested in joining forces for a one-day recruiting session. Large police departments, such as those in the District and Fairfax County, signed on along with small departments from Herndon, Leesburg and Manassas City.
The idea seemed to work. Experienced officers wandered the crowded aisles along with college students, recent grads and those who have begun their careers and are thinking about a new direction.
Boyd, 31, from Oak Hill in Fairfax, said he had a steady desk job that paid him six figures. "But it's not challenging and interesting," he said.
Wearing a blue suit, he plunged into the market of police and feds, listening to pitches from the FBI, the CIA, the Fairfax and Prince William County police. Afterward, he said, "I thought it was really good." He said he'd probably apply to one or more of the agencies, even though the starting salary at nearly all of yesterday's participants hovered near the $40,000 mark.
"It's a chance you take," Boyd said. "You've got to ask yourself, do you want to be happy with the job you have or just do something for the money?"
Shea, 24, said she had just moved to Prince William County from Missouri with a degree in criminal justice. She talked to several police departments with a growing sense of urgency. "I need a job," she said.
Brian Rooney, 22, of Clifton just graduated from Radford University and has a father and brother in law enforcement. He was comparing the benefits the departments offered: One said it paid for dry cleaning uniforms (a potentially high cost), one provided take-home cars for in-county residents. He said he would probably apply to one or more of the departments soon.
Different departments offered different selling points. Sgt. Kelvin Cusick pointed out that with the D.C. police force and its 3,800 sworn officers, "it's very easy to get promoted in our department. There's a lot of lateral and upward mobility."
At the Leesburg police booth, Sgt. Steven M. McVay handed out business cards with his department's benefits listed on the back. "What we have to offer is personality," McVay said. "You can come to our department and not be a number."