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Ex-Fairfax police chief Rohrer steps in to temporarily lead department

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Fairfax County’s top administrator for public safety, David M. Rohrer, will step in as interim police chief during the search for a full-time replacement for retiring Police Chief Edwin C. Roessler Jr., county officials announced Tuesday night.

Rohrer, 64, was the Virginia county’s police chief for eight years before he was promoted in 2012 to his current position: deputy county executive overseeing public safety. His first day as interim chief will be Monday, when Roessler’s retirement — announced in November — takes effect, county officials said.

Rohrer, who will temporarily leave his position as deputy county executive, will take over a department with low officer morale amid a series of changes that were prompted by the 2013 fatal shooting of an unarmed man by a county police officer.

His tenure as police chief included some controversies, among them the fatal police shooting in 2009 of an unarmed motorist on Route 1 who had a history of mental illness.

County Executive Bryan J. Hill said Rohrer’s experience and familiarity with the department of 1,400 officers will make for a seamless transition while the county conducts a nationwide search for a new police chief, a process that will include community input on law enforcement priorities in Fairfax.

“I work closely with Deputy County Executive Rohrer on a daily basis and I could not be more confident in his ability to see the Police Department through this period while we search for a new chief,” Hill said in a statement.

Roessler, 57, leaves his role as chief after 30 years with the department, part of a string of recent departures in D.C., Prince William County, Prince George’s County and elsewhere.

Roessler’s tenure in Fairfax was marked by the fatal 2013 shooting of John Geer and, more recently, the anger over police practices across the country that was sparked by the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis police custody. Roessler played a key role in implementing the changes prompted by Geer’s shooting and the lack of public information about that followed.

Among the changes: requiring police officers to wear body cameras, steering suspects with mental health issues toward counseling instead of jail and creating a civilian review board to scrutinize police department investigations into allegations of abuse or misconduct.

All four of the county’s police unions called on Roessler to resign last summer. A department spokesman has said Roessler’s retirement was not prompted by those calls.

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