The town of Vienna on Tuesday hired Lt. Col. Jim Morris, the current acting chief of the Fairfax County Police Department, to head the 41-officer Vienna Police Department. He will begin March 25, succeeding Chief Robert Carlisle, another Fairfax alumnus.
The Fairfax County Police Department has more than 1,400 sworn officers, is roughly the 30th biggest department in the United States, and arguably is one of the best run big-size departments, with aggressive community policing of a county with very low crime. And this with the third-fewest officers per 1,000 residents among the 50 biggest departments. Morris was one of three deputy chiefs to Chief David Rohrer, overseeing the Investigations and Operations Bureau, and became acting chief when Rohrer stepped aside in October. As acting chief, Morris certainly had to be considered a strong contender for the chief’s job. Instead, he will collect both a six-figure pension from Fairfax County and also a $146,331 salary from Vienna. And a heck of a lot fewer headaches managing a department one-thirtieth the size of Fairfax. I have put in a call to Morris to ask him about the move to Vienna, and will update this post when I hear from him.
UPDATE, Thursday: “I’ve never been in this for the ego,” Morris said, when I asked how he could go from a large department to a small one. He said Vienna was “just a fantastic opportunity that fell in my lap” at a time when he was eligible to retire from Fairfax, and an area he knew from his days on patrol in Oakton and McLean. “My management style is talking to people, getting out there,” and he will be better able to do that in Vienna than at the top of Fairfax.
Fairfax is only just beginning its police chief search, preferring to wait until it had concluded the search for a new fire chief. The other two current deputy police chiefs are Cols. Ed Roessler and Tom Ryan, both with a wide range of experience, and Roessler will probably now become acting chief. The most intriguing internal challengers to those two for the chief’s job might be one of three top women commanders, all majors: Erin Schaible, Sharon Smith or Cynthia McAlister. All have run district stations, Schaible has overseen both organized crime and patrol, and Smith and McAlister have run big internal units.
A woman has never been chief, and Fairfax has never gone outside its own department in its 72-year history. The Board of Supervisors will decide if the in-house pool is deep enough.