Retiring Fairfax County police chief concerned about assisting with future national security events

FILE — Fairfax County police Chief Edwin Roessler briefs reporters on reports of a man with a gun entering the McLean office building that is home to USA Today headquarters, Wednesday, Aug. 7, 2019 in McLean, Va. (AP Photo/Matthew Barakat, File)

Outgoing Fairfax County police Chief Edwin Roessler only has a few days left on the job, but shared he has concerns about county officers helping with national security going forward, given the mistakes U.S. Capitol Police acknowledged were made leading up to the Capitol attack.

The department sent 42 officers to respond to the call for mutual aid on Jan. 6 at the U.S. Capitol, and Roessler said it plans to offer any intelligence those officers learned during the attack.

“To understand what went wrong and to also be prepared to be very transparent to the Congressional investigation,” Roessler told WTOP.

He said those fears have not abated given the after-reports coming out from the initial investigations into the attack, and after hearing from U.S. Capitol Police leadership that it was not prepared for armed extremist protests to turn violent despite having the intelligence ahead of time to make those preparations.

In her testimony to Congress, acting Capitol Police Chief Yogananda Pittman “listed several missteps: Not having enough manpower or supplies on hand, not following through with a lockdown order she issued during the siege and not having a sufficient communications plan for a crisis.”

“I still have concerns as the chief of police for my remaining days, and also as a community member, that we protect our women and men,” Roessler said.

Even before the attack, he had concerns about his officers’ safety in participating in national security.

“I made a decision not to send any officers to the streets of D.C. for the inauguration back in August based on other events that had transpired the months before,” he said.

Roessler admits he had long planned to retire at the beginning of 2021, and said it does not have to do with the call for his resignation and vote of “no confidence” taken by his officers last summer.

His plan for the next chapter of his life is to remain active in his church and work on his passion for preventing suicide in law enforcement.

“And, as a public servant, I’ve been carrying out my work in my faith through a professional career. And this organization has done wonderful things since it’s opened on July 1, 1940. We’ve made great reforms,” Roessler said. “And now is the opportunity for new generation of leadership to come in and take the department to higher level.”

For now, it will be a return to a previous generation. The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors named former police Chief David Rorher to the role on an interim basis. Rorher left his position as chief in 2012 to take the newly created position of Deputy County Executive for Public Safety.

Rorher will serve as interim chief until the conclusion of the board’s nationwide search for a new police chief. A community survey, which will be taken into account during the search for a new chief, is live through Saturday, Jan. 30.

Megan Cloherty

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

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