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Lubas at the Helm

Female captain heads Fair Oaks District Station.

Police Capt. Amy Lubas is one, smart cookie. She expects to finish work on her master's in Criminal Justice Administration from JMU this spring and is on track to get a Ph.D.

Still, she said, "As a police officer, you do things your mother told you not to. You stay up all night, go into dark alleys, talk to strangers and stick your nose in other people's business."

But it's all part of the job, said Lubas: "You have to find out about the situation, what caused it, figure out how to resolve it and think of services you can refer people to."

OBVIOUSLY, she's been able to do all these things — and well — because, in January, she became commander of the Fair Oaks District Police Station. She's one of just four women in Fairfax County heading a district police station and, locally, joins Capt. Susan Culin who leads the Sully District Station.

"I'm really excited," said Lubas, 39. "I really wanted to come to Fair Oaks and, because I live in the district, in Oakton, it's a benefit. And being a station commander is one of the best jobs in the department because you're like a microcosm of the entire department. You're your own satellite and have autonomy with your officers to decide what issues are important for your district."

"You work with them as a team to tailor the plans for your district and implement and change them, as needed," she continued. "And it's empowering to do that because you see that you can really make a difference in the community."

Her husband is Lt. Col. Dave Lubas, chief deputy of operations with the county Sheriff's Office. And before retiring in 2000 as a captain, he served 27 years with the police department.

Amy originally hails from Reston and, she said, "My family was one of the first 100 to move into Reston when it was only Lake Anne." Graduating from South Lakes High in 1983, she later received her bachelor's in political science with a psychology minor from JMU.

Her political-science studies had a law concentration because, at the time, she wanted to be an attorney.

"But my mom found a cutout from a magazine with a picture of a police officer that, [as a child], I'd pasted to red cardboard and wrote my name beside," said Lubas. "So I must have had [this career] in the back of my mind."

She interned at a Fairfax law firm, years ago, and hated it. "I could tell that career wasn't for me," she said. By then, she'd graduated from college and realized she didn't want to attend law school. Added Lubas: "I also discovered I didn't like working in an office."

But she still liked the law and psychology, and it struck her that the combination "sounded like a police officer, to me. It's applied psychology, you're not in an office all day, it deals with the law and you're helping people."

SO IN 1988, Lubas spoke with a Fairfax County police recruiter and went through the hiring process. Four months later, in November, she was off to the police academy and thrilled to be going.

Her first assignment, in early 1989, was as a patrol officer at the McLean District Station — where she stayed until 1994. Explained Lubas: "I wanted to get a good foundation in patrol."

While there, she also served as a hostage negotiator for the department. One incident in the early '90s that stands out in her mind involved a woman in a high-rise, condominium complex.

"She'd fallen on hard times, was $40,000 in arrears on her payment and was being evicted," said Lubas. "She barricaded herself in her apartment with a loaded revolver — I think it was a .357 Magnum — and threatened to shoot anyone that came in to serve papers on her."

It was a four-hour negotiation and Lubas was lead negotiator. "I felt we had to resolve it without resorting to force," she recalled. "Everything worked out, but it was grueling."

Going on domestic calls, she also learned that "people fight about the same things, whether they're extremely poor or extremely rich — money, control issues and children. So you can use some of the same strategies in dealing with them."

Also while in patrol, Lubas worked as an on-call, Spanish interpreter. "At the time, I was one of the only female, Spanish interpreters in the department," she said. "So they asked if I'd be on call 365 days a year for female, sexual-assault victims who'd only speak to a woman. I said I would — and I got called out a lot."

It was a difficult job, she said, but rewarding. "I was glad to be there for these women," said Lubas. "There were very sad stories. Some had family support, but others' families viewed it as a shame on their family."

For example, when a Latina office cleaner was attacked on the job, she initially said she'd been robbed and beaten. "But I suspected from her behavior that something else was going on," explained Lubas. "And away from her husband, she admitted it and we finally convinced her to tell him because we'd need her help to convict [her attacker]."

In 1994, she was selected to instruct recruits at the police academy. "It was a lot of fun," she said. "I really enjoyed it because you turn civilians into police officers. But it requires a lot of work and energy. Our academy is very dedicated and committed to turning out the best recruits we can."

AFTER TWO years there, Lubas was promoted to sergeant in January 1997 and went to the Mason District Station. "A sergeant is the first level of supervision and helps supervise a squad. You're responsible for a patrol shift," she said. "And Mason's very busy, so it was a good place to grow and learn."

In January 1998, she was promoted to second lieutenant and returned to the McLean District Station on the midnight shift. But this time, she was in charge of that squad, consisting of two sergeants, 15 officers and a civilian.

"I was the only female in that entire group," said Lubas. "It was tiring working midnights and, often, doing administrative things during the day. So I really think these officers deserve extra credit for making that sacrifice."

A year later, January 1999, she was selected to work in the police department's Public Information Office. "There, I had to use my applied psychology in different ways," she said, smiling. During her PIO stint, she was promoted to first lieutenant. And after head PIO Warren Carmichael retired, she served as commander there for 1 1/2 years until a new civilian director, Mary Ann Jennings, was hired to replace him.

By now it was summer 2003 and, in August, Lubas returned to Mason as assistant station commander. "It was groundbreaking because Sharon Smith was the commander there, and it was the first time in the history of the department that there were two female commanders," she said. "It was great. We worked well together and the officers were terrific. And in general, we got a really good reception from the public."

In September 2004, Lubas was promoted to captain and coordinated the department's Gang Prevention Council. "We put together the council and steering committee and formulated the road map [for the next coordinator]," she said.

Then in January 2005, she came to the Fair Oaks District Station as its commander. Police Chief Dave Rohrer said Capt. Dennis Wilson did a great job there and he knows the station's in equally good hands under Lubas.

"SHE'S CALM and strong under pressure, and I'm very proud of her," said Rohrer. "She has a broad base of experience, and Amy brings the language skills that are so important to us right now. That really helps us a lot."

Lubas said traffic's the major problem here and is a "huge priority" in this district. "We keep an eye on intersections where there are more crashes, so our officers do a lot of traffic enforcement and traffic studies. It's all for public safety, and we work closely with VDOT, monitoring traffic issues, signage, speed limits and traffic-light timing."

And since Fair Oaks crime generally decreased in the past year, she said, "We're thinking that, because officers are out there enforcing traffic, their presence is a deterrent." Furthermore, said Lubas, "We don't have a gang problem here, and I want to make sure it stays that way."