Fairfax City police Chief Richard J. Rappoport, retiring after more than 13 years in the city to become a deputy chief of the Amtrak Police. (City of Fairfax) Fairfax City police Chief Richard J. Rappoport, retiring after more than 13 years in the city to become a deputy chief of the Amtrak Police. (City of Fairfax)

Rick Rappoport, who was the Fairfax City police chief for more than 13 years and a Fairfax County officer and commander for 24 years before that, has announced that he is stepping down next month to join the Amtrak police force as deputy chief for the mid-Atlantic and southeast region. Rappoport, 60, made the announcement in a letter to Fairfax City officials and to his own officers on Monday.

Rappoport is easy going and very experienced, which made him popular with his troops in both the city and the county as well as in the fraternity of local police chiefs who meet regularly to discuss regional problems. Montgomery County Chief Tom Manger told me recently that Rappoport was one of the smartest police officers he’d ever worked with. Rappoport worked for Manger as a deputy chief of administration and held various positions around the county before taking the Fairfax City job in November 2000.

Rappoport’s top accomplishment in the city no doubt was winning voter approval for a much-needed new police headquarters — his department worked out of an old elementary school for years, with Rappoport in the principal’s office — and then getting it built and operational. He also had to deal with a large wave of retirements, as many police departments have, and has gotten his force fully trained, though about half have less than five years experience. He established a Citizens Police Academy and a Volunteers in Police Service program to get more of the city’s 24,000 residents involved in the department. He teaches a class in police ethics at George Mason University. And he helped arrange the launch of a deer sterilization program for Fairfax City, conducted in the police headquarters’ garage, which could become a model alternative for small jurisdictions with deer overpopulation.

Now, Rappoport will work for Amtrak police Chief Polly Hanson, the former head of Metro Transit Police and a former assistant to D.C. police Chief Cathy Lanier. “I’m excited at the opportunity to work with her in an area of policing that is vitally important and new and challenging to me,” Rappoport told me Tuesday. “I’d like to challenge myself one more time before retiring to a life of leisure, I hope.”

Rappoport said it was “a very difficult decision to retire.” He thanked his department members, city employees, volunteers, various boards and commissions, and his colleagues around the region. “This area,” he said, “is blessed with incredible law enforcement leadership that works really well together to solve major issues — that just doesn’t happen everywhere in the country.”

Fairfax City Mayor Scott Silverthorne said, “As the longest serving chief in the city’s history, Rick Rappoport modernized our police department and was well respected by his officers and by the city’s governing body alike. Most importantly, crime in the City of Fairfax has been at historical lows during his time as chief. I was personally disappointed to learn the news of his retirement.”

Rappoport’s last day will be May 9.