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Liaison Officer Retires But Continues Serving the Public

Lieutenant Roman Kaluta has been a fixture at Old Town Civic Association (OTCA) meetings for the past 13 years. On November 13, he made his last official appearance as that organization's Police Liaison Officer.

In recognition of his service and counsel, OTCA immediate past president, Mark Feldheim, presented Kaluta with an inscribed desk clock from the organization. "You have been of invaluable service to us and I consider you a personal friend as well," Feldheim said.

After 25 and one half years on the Alexandria police force Kaluta retired as of November. But, he has not left the world of public safety. He is now the manager of Public Safety Communications Interoperability for a radio communications firm in Raleigh, NC.

Interoperability is that element of communications science that enables various public safety units working in concert at the scene of an incident, such as the Pentagon attack on 9/11, to effectively communicate with one another to increase their efficiency in achieving their common goal. Kaluta is a recognized expert in that science.

"The department (Alexandria Police) has been working jointly with the US Department of Justice and the National Institute of Justice, Office of Science and Technology, on a program known as AGILE [Advanced Generation of Interoperability for Law Enforcement]," Kaluta explained. "Alexandria is a leader in interoperability technology."

As stated in explanatory literature, AGILE serves in, "Multiple car accidents. Natural disasters. Domestic terrorism. High speed pursuits. Wireless radio communication is the key to effective public safety. During these incidents, public safety officials from different disciplines and jurisdictions must be able to share information effortlessly."

A NATIVE OF Pittsburgh, Kaluta moved to Arlington in 1958 when his father, serving in the US Air Force, was assigned to the Pentagon. "When I graduated from Washington and Lee High School, I decided to become an auto mechanic. Then came the gasoline crunch of 1970 and I lost my job," Kaluta explained.

That's when he became a security guard at an Arlington protective agency. During that tenure he befriended some police officers and they encouraged him to follow his childhood desire to join the force.

"All through my early years it seems as if I was influenced in my career choice by police. In school the officer assigned to our school was a big influence and my den father in cub scouts was an Arlington County motorcycle officer," Kaluta recalled.

Since joining the Alexandria Police Department on June 1, 1977, Kaluta has had a wide variety of assignments. He was a uniformed patrol officer for four and a half years, then went to the Criminal Investigations Division, and from there to narcotics, vice and intelligence. Upon his promotion to lieutenant he became the City Council liaison officer.

"Roman Kaluta is one of the hardest working, most professional, police commanders I've ever had the pleasure of working with," said Alexandria Police Chief, Charles E. Samarra. "He was very committed to OTCA. He took that job very seriously and handled a lot of issues that otherwise would have ended up on my desk."

That sentiment was echoed by Feldheim at the November meeting. "Roman has not only kept us informed and served as our link to the police department but he has truly been a part of this organization."

Kaluta's assessment of the OTCA assignment was that "It covered the whole gamut from quality of life issues to law enforcement issues. I was first assigned to OTCA because of the growing prosperity and development of Old Town's business district.

"It became a very popular place and that had a significant impact on quality of life issues. It was incumbent upon me to know what was going on and maintain regular contact with the OTCA president."

BUT HIS CONTACT was not limited to the president and officers of the organization. "I was referred out to the membership at large. If they had concerns they could come to me directly." That personal connection was quite evident at his last meeting.

As Chief Samarra emphasized, "Roman was the kind of officer who never asked about overtime or how involved the assignment was. He only asked what needed to be done and then went out and did it."

One of those assignments called for Kaluta to respond to a citizen complaint about bats at the old Federal Court House at Prince and Washington streets. "After getting rid of the bats I had to write a report. In doing so I made a spelling error that has remained a joke," he exclaimed.

"Instead of saying that bats were roosting in the chimney, I wrote they were roasting in the chimney. You can imagine some of the feed back I got from the department on that," he recalled.

Responding to citizen concerns has always been a touchstone of Kaluta's law enforcement career. While serving OTCA he saw that walking patrols were increased to respond to community requests. And, there has been a heightened presence in both uniformed and plain clothes officers operating in Old Town, according to Kaluta.

ALTHOUGH HIS NEW position is situated in Raleigh, Kaluta and his wife Betsy, plan to remain residents of Burke, at least until his son, William, graduates from Lake Braddock High School. He is now in his junior year. Their daughter, Lauren, is a student at Old Dominion University.

Kaluta has been involved with the Metropolitan Interoperability Radio System (MIRS) for the last four years. His position, for that specialty, with the Alexandria department, has been funded through a federal grant.

"There are now five host sites in this area," he said. "They are Alexandria, which includes Prince Georges County, Arlington and Prince William counties, Rockville and College Park, and the District of Columbia."

He explained, "The goal of the program now in process is to link all departments instantaneously even if they are using totally different radio systems. This process was used during the recent sniper incident. It has also been employed during Presidential inaugurations and at the Olympics."

According to Kaluta, the trigger to getting Alexandria involved was the jumper incident on the Woodrow Wilson Bridge in early 1998. "There were Alexandria, Prince Georges, D.C., as well as Maryland and Virginia state units, involved and there was no single way of communicating between them," he emphasized.

Since the involvement with MIRS, Alexandria has "played a leading role in the development and advancement of mobile data computers in police vehicles," according to Kaluta. "Alexandria is recognized internationally for that involvement."

As he enthused about his new position there was also a hint of nostalgia. "I've lived in this area the vast majority of my life. So the commuting on the weekends gives me the opportunity to come back. I know I'm going to miss it here."

PERHAPS THAT nostalgia is heightened by the fact Kaluta has always been involved personally as well as professionally with the law enforcement community. According to Amy Bertsch, Public Information Officer, Alexandria Police Department, "Roman is very active in "Heros," the police organization which raises funds for the families of those officers killed in the line of duty.

"He has been very active in the group's activity. He is one of the organizers of the Spring golf tournament. He had two friends killed in The Berg shoot out years ago," she explained.

Roman Kaluta may be feeling nostalgic about leaving the Alexandria Police Department and his friends at OTCA. But, that goes both ways. As for the clock, Kaluta said, "I love it. But, I also have to fill out a report that I received it as a gift."