Fairfax Police Chief Shares Vision for Urban Policing, New Station in Tysons

The Fairfax County Police Department is looking to keep pace with Tysons’ rapid urbanization with completely different service from the rest of the county.

Chief Edwin Roessler Jr. talked to Tysons Reporter about the new, urban-style police station and service model he hopes to bring to Tysons in the future.

“It’s going to be different from all of the other stations,” he said. “In Fairfax right now it’s isolated. It’s got gates. It’s got cars.”

Roessler said that the station will be “very small” and that the officers will be trained for flexible policing styles that include: rail, retail, nightlife, vertical in high risers, bike and foot patrol.

“I envision it as that old school, early 1900s police station where it’s just part of the environment,” he said. “You see a small police station — it’s part of the fabric of the community.”

While the police department considered Segways for Tysons earlier this year, Roessler said that the pilot program showed they were “too clunky to work right now.”

Roessler started thinking about adding a Tysons station back in 2003 when he was a patrol major working with the county’s zoning staff on a strategic staffing plan.

He said that he helped to put together a team that traveled to Boston, Chicago, New York City and San Diego to find out how their police stations handled rapid urbanization in the 1890s-1920s. The takeaway: police departments need to plan ahead of time to make sure they have the personnel and equipment in order to avoid making quick changes to respond to a tragedy.

Working with the county’s zoning staff is a “really crucial piece” as the process for a Tysons station continues,  he said.

For the last few years, Roessler said that he’s been working with different county agencies to get a land purchase or proffer for a Tysons police station — even if it’s just two floors in a mixed-use development.

“We’ve come close several times to getting a proffer in a mixed-use facility to have that urban station, but we continue to work on finding an area that would be conducive to a police station there,” he said.

Currently, nine full-time officers are assigned to the Tysons urban community — a number Roessler said he’d like to boost in the five-year staffing plan, which would also hopefully address the police department’s understaffing issue.

Tysons, Reston and Merrifield are the urban centers where Roessler plans to switch from “this 1940s-style of one person per patrol car” to a range of policing styles.

“We have to patrol like in Tysons, Reston in pairs because we have to go up 30 plus floors and it’s not fair for the community for one patrol officer ti come and wait for the other one,” he said. “It expands the response time.”

A new Lorton station within the next two years is part of larger redistricting effort that will shrink police district stations’ response areas countywide.

With tighter boundaries and the same amount of personnel, Roessler said that policing will become more efficient and engage in the community within smaller geographic areas, which will lead to detecting more crime. The police department will then need more support personnel for more cases, he said.

After the Lorton facility opens, Fairfax County Police Department will hold community meetings across the county about redistricting each district station to ensure a continuity of service, he said.

“I hope within five years we’re going to have a date inked in where we can have another station,” he said.

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