Police group says members have ‘weight off their shoulders’ on news of Fairfax County chief’s retirement

After months of reported discontent over Chief Edwin Roessler’s leadership, members of a police group in Fairfax County, Virginia, say they are pleased to hear of his decision.

Roessler, who has served as chief of the police for more than seven years, will step down and retire in February.

“I know there has been a tremendous amount of pressure for him to resign or retire. What the nexus was for the decision to be made today, I don’t know,” said Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 77 President Brad Carruthers.

When he learned Roessler will retire early next year, Carruthers said there was an immediate boost in morale, which he described as a shot in the arm, for some members of Fairfax County police.

edwin roessler and puppy
Chief Edwin C. Roessler will retire in February. Pictured here with K-9 “Indy,” who he and his wife helped raise, is now in service with the FCPD Peer Team. (Courtesy Fairfax County police)

“I think it’s a weight taken off their shoulders that they know there is an impending change coming.”

Last month, some 300 officers joined a listening session with Roessler and discussed the deteriorating morale, Carruthers said.

In July, Carruthers wrote to Roessler to step down, after 98% of members polled said they would support a formal request for him to resign.

The poll was taken weeks after Roessler said Officer Tyler Timberlake broke the use-of-force policies when he used a stun gun on a Black man he mistakenly thought he recognized.

“I believe if you’re doing your job, your employer should have your back. Unless, you’re doing something blatantly incorrect, illegal, dishonorable, then no, you should face the full consequences of the law,” said a Fairfax County police officer who agreed to share his thoughts if WTOP did not use his name.

A grand jury indicted Timberlake on three counts of assault and battery for stunning the man, who video shows was rambling and pacing in the street on June 5 and was not combative when he was stunned and forcibly arrested.

Timberlake and other officers on the scene were relieved of duty pending the investigation. Other officers took issue with how the chief handled the situation.

“People are, they have no idea where the line is, and they are afraid of the chief throwing them in handcuffs,” the Fairfax County police officer said.

“If the chief were gone tomorrow or they hired someone brand new or someone who they trusted for the top spot, there would still be a little apprehension,” said the five-year department veteran.

Fairfax County police said Roessler’s retirement is not a reaction to officer sentiment.

“He had this in the works since last October and felt that he accomplished all of the objectives he set out for himself after eight years, and said the department will never be in a better position to transition to the next generation of leadership than it is right now,” police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi said.

Roessler joined the Fairfax County Police Department in 1989 as a patrol officer and has been chief since 2013, the department said in a news release.

“The FCPD is blessed with women and men, past and present, who understand their noble calling in life and are dedicated to serving and protecting others,” Roessler said in a statement.

“I’ve worked alongside progressive law enforcement professionals, amazing forward-thinking strategic county leaders and great community advocates who have truly embraced the concepts of One Fairfax to ensure equity for all.”

There’s no word from the county or department yet about who will serve as interim chief after Roessler steps down. Carruthers hopes that the police force will be a part of the selection process.

“I would certainly like to see employee groups have the opportunity to put their input in. But I can tell you from the Fraternal Order of Police’s standpoint, we’d be asking for an outside chief that has never had ties to Fairfax County,” Carruthers said.

The Fairfax County Police Department Internal Affairs Bureau’s 2019 Use of Force Report found that while only one in 1,000 calls for service resulted in an officer using force, 45% of community members who were subjected to force over the year covered by the report were Black.

Megan Cloherty

WTOP Investigative Reporter Megan Cloherty primarily covers breaking news, crime and courts.

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