The town of Quantico is looking to revive its scandal-plagued police department and has started by hiring a new police chief, town Mayor Kevin Brown said Friday.
In January, Acting Police Chief Howard Castle and two full-time officers resigned from the police department of this small town — located on the Marine Corps Base with a population just under 500 — after an internal audit found that drugs, cash and handguns were missing from the department.
The Town Council unanimously chose John P. Clair, 32, a Prince William County officer who was one of 15 to apply for the job, Brown said.
Clair is a former Army military police officer and a former contractor with federal law enforcement agencies, he said in an interview. He has also served as an officer with the town of Dumfries and as a part-time officer with Quantico before taking the job with county police.
Clair has been with Prince William for 2.5 years. His new position as chief pays $62,000 plus benefits, Brown said.
Clair said he was drawn to the small town — he’s from a small town in Ohio — and the opportunity to serve in a rare entry-level leadership position.
He said he was “saddened” by the recent revelations about the department’s practices, but wasn’t in a position to see any of the alleged activity that turned up after Brown ordered an internal audit recently. The audit found that $1,080 in cash was missing, along with an unknown quantity of marijuana and department handguns, according to the audit and an e-mail from Brown.
“I feel like if I come in there and operate with integrity and professionalism, what more can I do?” Clair asked.
The town currently employs just three part-time volunteer police officers, after its other officers resigned. Brown said that one of Clair’s initial tasks would be to recommend what size the new department should be.
Brown said that the town considered disbanding the department and relying on Prince William, but residents and officials agreed that crime could be a problem without the town’s own department. “We are like a little island off to the side,” said Brown, noting that the town is not always patrolled regularly by county police. A high number of rental properties and the town’s location — in the middle of the base — demands a more constant police presence, Brown said.
Clair said he would look to reaching out to law enforcement in Dumfries and Prince William to ensure new policies are up to par, as well as invite accreditors to ensure third-party officials affirm the town’s policing.
“There are things in place down there, I just have to rediscover them. I know the police department as a whole could have been operating far better,” Clair said. “My immediate action is … to give us a new mission and to start instituting policies and procedures that are going to ensure success.”
The state police investigation into the town’s department continues, officials said.