When the Town of Herndon was established 125 years ago, the incorporating documents called for the creation of a town sergeant, who would serve as the only law-enforcement agent. C.M. Burton was appointed to the post in 1879, and was responsible for not only keeping the peace, but also collecting taxes and overseeing roadwork.
"It's said one of the town sergeants didn't drive and would stop cars and make them take him where he needed to go," said Sgt. Jerry Keys, the Herndon Police Department public information officer.
From 1879 to 1958, the town had about 14 known town sergeants, after which a police chief, Joseph Murray, was hired, who employed the first officers. By 1972, the department consisted of six officers working out of the basement of Town Hall.
Today, 54 sworn personnel handle all of Herndon's law enforcement needs. In addition, there are 15 non-sworn staff members, and under the command of the department's fourth chief, George Kranda, who served from 1989-1999, the department added a bicycle patrol and motor squad to the small fleet of patrol cars.
LAW ENFORCEMENT has changed since Town Sgt. Burton was tasked with keeping Herndon safe. It is likely his calls consisted of public drunkenness, fights and some petty theft. Over the years, the department has created a criminal investigations unit, gang task force, a now-defunct S.W.A.T., a small K-9 unit, community resource officers, as well as upgraded equipment and vehicles; hired its first black officer, Capt. Darryl Smith, in the early 1970s and its first female officer, Susan Archibald, who is no longer with the department, in the 1980s.
"Most of the change has been within the last 30 years," said Capt. Larry Presgrave, who joined the department in August 1972.
When Presgrave started, the department consisted of eight officers, who would occasionally receive calls to round up livestock that had escaped a nearby farm. By the time Keys joined the department in 1980, the force had grown to 19 sworn officers.
"When I started, I worked the midnight to 8 a.m. shift. If you had three or four calls, that was considered busy," Keys said. "Now the midnight shift is fairly busy. You see people out on the streets all the time."
THE EXPANDING POPULATION of Herndon has forced the department to grow and the changing nature of police work has added challenges for the officers. Presgrave said a lot of the calls concern quality of life issues, such as over-populated houses, as well as more high-tech crimes. He said the changing face of Herndon has also become an obstacle for officers.
"When I first came here, I could talk to anyone. Now, there is a language barrier," Presgrave said. "You knew more about the people you were dealing with than you do now — who they hung out with and those kinds of things."
Presgrave said that while criminals have been becoming more sophisticated, the Herndon Police Department has always done a good job keeping up or even staying ahead of the curve, even when he started in the 1970s.
"We were modern for the times," Presgrave said. "However, a person hired 20 years ago that came back now, wouldn't be able to function now. Herndon really has been good to its officers. They always have tried to give us the best and latest equipment."
For example, Presgrave said, Herndon was among the first to use portable radios, even before the Fairfax County Police had such equipment. Presgrave also said a lieutenant who came to the Herndon force from the Falls Church department trained Fairfax County's special tactical unit while still in Falls Church. Presgrave's first chief, Bishop, tried to create a bicycle unit more than 10 years before one was successful in Herndon.
"Chief Bishop was ahead of his time. He wanted to start a bicycle unit. I was athletic, but what he was offering didn't suit me," Presgrave said.
Unlike today's unit, which has spandex uniforms and specially equipped bikes suited for police work. Bishop wanted officers to wear their regular uniform, consisting of walking pants, shoes and a Stetson similar to what state police troopers wear today. The equipment was also far from top-of-the-line.
"It wasn't well received," Presgrave said.
As for the future, the department is looking forward to moving into its fourth station, 397 Herndon Parkway, which is under renovation now and is expected to be ready for occupancy later this year. In addition, Presgrave said, that based on population projections, the force will probably top out at 90 to 95 officers.