Prince William County has named an acting police chief as officials conduct a nationwide search for the police force’s top position.

Lt. Col. Barry Barnard, 60, has been with the department since 1976 and will take the place of outgoing Chief Charlie T. Deane, who announced his retirement this month after 42 years. Deane will step down Sept. 1.

Board Chairman Corey A. Stewart (R-At Large) has said the county will conduct a national search to replace Deane but will also consider Barnard and Assistant Chief Steve Hudson among its potential candidates.

Barnard, who has been with the department since 1976 and led the department’s operations and administrative divisions from 2000 to 2009, said in an interview that he has overseen transitions to new technology and helped roll out the county’s anti-illegal immigration policies, among other efforts.

In 2007, Prince William became among the first localities in the nation to roll out a police initiative that now checks the immigration status of all those arrested.

Barnard said that Deane undertook the “lion’s share” of efforts to reach out to the community about the initiative. But Barnard also participated, as both he and Deane understood that quelling fears during that time was critical.

Stewart often says that while the policy was at first vigorously protested, the county has experienced few cases where police have been substantively accused of racial profiling.

“We’re a very diverse community, and it’s important we speak to everybody about the program and the process,” Barnard said. “We continue to do that whenever we can.”

Barnard said that while the county transitions, he will seek continuity in a community that has seen tremendous growth but has maintained a declining crime rate. The department is pushing forward with a new Central Police Station, and he will work with county supervisors to ensure its staffing plan is maintained, Barnard said.

“Our focus is going to be on continuing to come to work every day … maintaining the public trust and combating crime,” Barnard said. “That’s what are going to do.”