Police officials, politicians, civic leaders and citizens of Mount Vernon jammed the Mount Vernon District Station of the Fairfax County Police Department on Parker's Lane last Friday to witness a one-of-a-kind ceremony for Fairfax County government.
It was the change-of-command ceremony, which transferred the leadership of the station from Maj. Shawn Barrett to Capt. Larry Moser. No other station in the county follows this formal procedure.
"This type of ceremony is usually performed only by the military. But it is done at the Mount Vernon Station because it is unique," said Col. J. Thomas Manger, Fairfax County Police chief. "It puts a lot of pressure on me to put the best commanders we have at this station."
Manger went on to say, "It is with great pride that I stand here with these leaders. I congratulate Shawn on his promotion to major and Larry on his first station command."
In response, Barrett acknowledged that he had specifically requested Moser as his replacement. "The chief did not want to give him up. but I made a personal request." Immediately before being named the new Mount Vernon station commander, Moser worked directly with Manger at police headquarters in Fairfax.
BARRETT HAD SERVED as the Mount Vernon commander for the past 20 months, during which time he noted, "We've had some very significant events, such as Sept. 11 and the sniper attacks." He is now the bureau commander of the Technical Services Bureau at headquarters. In that role he is responsible for all technology projects, he explained.
In relinquishing command, Barrett thanked all those that had worked with him during his tenure at Mount Vernon, both within the police establishment and community at-large. He singled out Gerald W. Hyland (D) and Dana Kauffman (D), county supervisors for the Mount Vernon and Lee districts, respectively.
"Both supervisors are professional, consummate politicians. They are truly concerned about the citizenry and are not micromanagers. They let commanders do their job without interference," Barrett said.
On receiving the station flag from Barrett, Moser told the assembled spectators, "Shawn Barrett has done an excellent job, as did his predecessors, and we share common beliefs." He also admitted he was not totally convinced he would become the new commander "until 12:01 p.m. today." The ceremony began at noon.
"In order to fill the shoes of my predecessors, it can't be done by myself. It must be done with the cooperation of all the personnel of the station," Moser said.
He also reflected that this was his third assignment at the Mount Vernon station. He previously served there as a sergeant and as supervisor of the Bike Team.
AS A NATIVE OF Fairfax County, Moser observed, "This community (Mount Vernon) still has a hometown touch. That's not easy to do any more in Fairfax County." Before introducing his wife, Vicki, and their three children — Josh, 12; Ryan, 10; and Maggie, 7 — Moser stated his initial goal is to "talk and listen to all of you in the community."
At the conclusion of the formal ceremony, Barrett was recognized by two community groups for his efforts to open a dialogue and improve the interaction between police and citizens throughout the area.
Maryelizabeth Thomas, president, Gum Springs Civic Association; Vera Slaughter, director, Gum Springs Community Center; and Mattie Palmore presented him with a plaque honoring "his open door policy with the people."
Thomas noted, "There was a time when the only dialogue between the police and Gum Springs residents was "You're under arrest."
He also received a recognition plaque from the Citizens Advisory Group, a volunteer organization that works with the police to enhance community outreach. Presented by chairman Judy Schultheis and vice chairman Ginger Krup, it emphasized, "We support the highway."
Lt. Joseph Hill, assistant station commander, served as the event's master of ceremonies. In addition to the formal change of command, the ceremony included the presentation of the colors by the Fairfax County Honor Guard and a invocation by the Rev. D.K. White, pastor, Bethlehem Baptist Church.