For the last 26 years, every time that a challenge has arisen for the Herndon Police Department, there has been one face that has been there with unwavering consistency.
"Maybe it's unwritten or hard to describe, but whenever there's an incident that is tough to respond to, you go to Don Amos," said Captain Larry Presgrave, a 35-year-veteran of the Herndon Police Department. "Whenever there was an event that needed a good officer, [Amos] was there."
Twenty-six years after the 50-year-old Lt. Don Amos pinned his badge to his police-issued navy-colored shirt, officers throughout the department are observing the end of a career that spanned three decades and several roles within the Herndon Police Department. Amos will be leaving the Herndon Police Department on Dec. 1 to take a position as the training and exercise manager for Northern Virginia in the state's Department of Emergency Management.
"He has been one of the most excellent officers that I have had the pleasure of working with," said Tom Fletcher, a civilian who has worked in support services with the Herndon Police Department during the span of Amos' tenure. "I've worked together with him a lot over the years and one of the things that always strikes me about him … he has a real good eye when it comes to his work and he doesn't mind putting it to use."
AMOS FIRST came to the attention of the Herndon Police Department when, as a member of the Herndon Optimist Club, he was offered an opportunity to participate in an overnight police ride-along. At the time, Amos was working as a general assistant of a Safeway grocery store in Herndon.
It was Presgrave who took the 23-year-old Amos on the ride-along. He said that he realized pretty quickly where Amos' interests and talents lie.
"I found in Don right away that he was a very polite young man … who was very interested in Herndon and the various things that occurred around town," Presgrave said. "When you look at potential officer recruits, those are some of the qualities you look for."
For Amos, the opportunity was one of sheer excitement.
"I was awestruck," Amos said. "I had always thought about [being a police officer] when I was younger, but this was really the first experience that really sold me on it."
He added that he can narrow down the exact moment when he decided that his career was in law enforcement.
As the pair patrolled the parking lot of a hardware store behind the Dulles Park Shopping Center, Presgrave slowed down as he noticed that a back door had been left open.
"I remember watching [Presgrave] scale the fence because he thought there might be a burglary in progress," Amos said. While the door had just been accidentally left open that night, it was that sense of adventure mixed with community duty that hooked Amos.
WHEN HE REPORTED for his first day at the Police Department — still located in the old Town Hall downtown at that time — on April 1, 1980, he had just finished getting his badge when he was dispatched to watch the door at a crime scene where a robbery had taken place earlier that day.
Attending to the crime scene would be the first in a long chain of community service and police work in Herndon for Amos.
"After he came on with us, I watched his career just take off," said Presgrave. "He was a very committed and compassionate man. I think that worked well for him throughout his career."
From 1983 to 1989, Amos worked as the juvenile specialist officer, educating school children about safety and police officers and investigating crimes against minors.
It was a job that was perfect for Amos, Presgrave said.
"He just has this ability, perhaps because he's so soft-spoken and gentle with people, that makes him so good with talking to kids," he said.
While the work was rewarding, dealing with cases of child abuse was anything but easy, Amos said.
"It was real tough at times, dealing with things like sexual abuse," Amos said. "But having a positive effect on kids and trying to make a difference … made working those types of cases worthwhile."
AMOS CLIMBED the ranks of the Herndon Police Department, eventually being reassigned as a patrol sergeant, the head of a squad of two to three police cruisers, in 1989. It was at this time that he also took his position as the public information officer for the department.
As with most police officers, he was confronted with more challenges on the streets of Herndon.
"I remember arriving once to this domestic assault case where the man had discharged a shotgun in the house," Amos said. When he entered the house, the man was apparently suicidal and wanted Amos to shoot him.
"That type of situation, when you're confronted with it, it can be very tense," he said. Eventually the swat team showed up and the suspect was taken into custody alive.
It wouldn't be the only time that Amos was put face to face with violence.
He was also the supervisor on duty during the last fatal shooting by a Herndon police officer, when a suspect barricaded himself in a house after he broke into it.
Amos still has a difficult time recalling that experience.
"Those are the types of things that you have to deal with as a police officer," he said. "You have to deal with a lot of bad, but at the same time, you deal with a lot of the good."
AS AMOS PREPARES to start the newest segment of his career in emergency management and preparedness in a region bordering the nation's capital, he said that he is excited to take on the new challenges ahead of him.
Still, he will miss his time with the Herndon Police Department.
"When I first started I remember thinking about when I would leave the department, but I thought that's a long way away," Amos said. "It went by a lot faster than I thought it would."
As Amos closes the door to his career as a police officer next month, another will be opening early next year, when his first-born son, 22-year-old Don Amos, Jr., completes his training and becomes an officer of the Fairfax County Police Department.
His son said that he hopes to follow in his father's footsteps as an example of a distinguished and decorated public servant.
"I hope that I'll be able to live up to everything that he has accomplished in my career," Don Amos, Jr. said, who added that he has recognized the significance in the near-simultaneous end and beginning of he and his father's public law enforcement careers. "My father never let anything stop him, he always kept determined — and I hope to show that in my career."
"As someone with a great record as a police officer and a very dedicated person, I would love to be able to follow in my dad's footsteps."