F.C. Police Chief Acknowledges Pressures With Staff Reductions

At tonight’s Falls Church City Council budget work session, Chief Harry Reitze confirmed to the Council that plans to eliminate a full-time dispatcher position in the small department will stretch the resources of the department. Calling the dispatcher position the “hub of the wheel” of the department, Reitze stressed that the job requires special training and clearance, as “a lot of highly sensitive data comes through them.”

He said that with summer approaching, the demands for vacation time plus illness burdens the position when it is one person short, and that a “great deal of overtime” will result. But, he added, “Overworking them is not a good idea.” Reitze’s comments came a week after a large contingent of police employees came before the City Council to protest the City Manager’s budget plan to freeze salaries for a third year in a row while increasing the demand on police employees to now cover the costs of their pension and health insurance with seven percent of their incomes, up from zero percent two years ago.

Representatives of the Sheriff’s Department, the Falls Church Volunteer Fire Department and the Falls Church Fire Marshall’s office also came before the Council tonight to discuss their budgets, and plans for a new Falls Church Fire Prevention Code that will stress the vital role of sprinker systems and fire-retardant exterior finishes in new construction. Sheriff Steve Bittle noted that while his department was prepared to absorb a 10 percent funding cut in the new budget, than the work load us up 30 percent. He added that the City has made no friends in Arlington now that it is demanding monthly invoices from Arlington for the City’s use of the Arlington Detention Center after Arlington’s billing snafu earlier this year hit Falls Church with an erroneous $2 million bill for use of the jail facilities.

Bittle, who began his career in Falls Church as a police officer in 1966 and has served as its sheriff since 1992, also stressed the exemplary cooperation between his department and the Falls Church Police.