FAIRFAX COUNTY, VA — The Fairfax County Police Department is marking its 75th anniversary this weekend, paying respects to family members of fallen officers, remembering the past and looking toward the future.
In a ceremony, family members of officers killed in the line of duty received commemorative badges in remembrance of their loved ones. Five officers have lost their lives serving Fairfax County since 1977.
Participants marveled at the growth of the county and its police force over the years.
“In 1940 we had about 41,000 residents,” says Edward Long, Fairfax County Executive. He joked that officers chased cows in McLean back then, while the police department began with six road deputies in 1940.
“Those six officers had four radios, but they could only receive messages they couldn’t send messages out,” Long says.
“We are the 34th largest police department in the United States, we cover 406 square miles in the confines of Fairfax County. We have over 1.1 million residents,” says Police Chief Ed Roessler.
Currently, there are 1700 officers in the ranks.
The department has its challenges of late.
A special grand jury is looking into the 2013 police shooting of John Geer who was shot to death in the doorway of his Springfield home. The county has paid Geer’s family $2.95 million dollars settling a wrongful death lawsuit.
The county can point to pride, though, to its crime rate, making it among the safest communities of its size in the nation.
“Fairfax County’s crime rate (is) the lowest in the nation among the top 50,” Roessler says.
Fairfax, like other departments across the country, is reexamining current practices and considering future changes. Currently all county police cruisers are equipped with cameras and the police chief is kicking off a study of body cameras for officers.
County Executive Long says the department must promote transparency and keep up with technological advances including those in communications.
“Facebook, Twitter — social media is here to stay, we are beginning to respond to that but it is also a major adjustment for us,” Long says.
The executive also says as times change so do the issues that police confront.
“I think drones are going to be a major issue. They can also be a major help to the department,” Long says.
” Our police are out in the community and that bond is what, in my view, has created the lowest crime rate in America,” says Rep. Gerry Connolly, (D-11th Dist, VA).