As a longtime member of the City of Falls Church Police Department, Sergeant Steve Rau has spent many of his Memorial Day holidays serving the City. He’s directed traffic at the end of the parade route. He’s patrolled the streets during the Memorial Day festivities. He’s worked at George Mason High School, for soccer tournaments. This Memorial Day will be different. Rau has been named grand marshal of the 2014 Memorial Day parade.
Rau is looking forward to Memorial Day and serving as grand marshal because he’ll get to see his “kids,” the students he nurtured during his 15 years as a school resource officer (SRO) for the Falls Church City Public Schools.
“I have two children and about 3,000 kids,” Rau says. “They’re always going to be my kids.”
It was only recently that Rau left his SRO post; he was promoted last December to sergeant, which meant he had to leave the officer position at the schools to take on a supervisory role. He’s now a patrol supervisor, and additionally oversees the property evidence room. But for the vast majority of his nearly 20 years with the City of Falls Church Police Department, he worked in the City’s schools.
As an SRO, Rau was a resource not just to parents and administrators, but also to students. He strived to be an adult role model. He set out to build relationships with students; they talked to him about sports and current events, but also about how they got pulled over or arrested at a party. His aim was to give his students a positive perception of a law enforcement officer early on, so that they didn’t end up with a distorted view when they grew older.
It was Rau’s task to step in when student matters rose to a level that required law enforcement intervention. He’d interview wrong-doing students as part of his investigation but, at the end of the inquiry and with the permission of parents, he’d talk to the students about next steps. Kids make mistakes, Rau says, and he wanted to help them makes the changes necessary to move past their transgressions.
“I don’t want a kid to walk out of that school and think that their world just ended,” Rau says.
Rau was a guest lecturer in many classes. He spoke in driver’s ed and health classes. He’d set up a radar unit to measure the speed of cars for science class experiments. In government class, he’d discuss what the Bill of Rights guaranteed his students.
Rau considers one particular student speaking engagement the best moment in his career: when he was selected to be George Mason High School’s graduation speaker in 2004. It was a humbling honor, he says, as is being named grand marshal. It’s a demonstration of a positive impact made.
And as far as best moments go, how does this grand marshal honor rank?
“Right there with it,” Rau says. “There is a bit of a ‘wow’ factor to it. … To the people who nominated me, I say thank you to them. This is a huge honor, and I understand that and I really do appreciate it.”