2024-07-22 1:32 PM

F.C. Police Chief Meets Business Owners

FALLS CHURCH’S NEW Police Chief Shahram Fard spoke to the monthly luncheon of the Falls Church Chamber of Commerce Tuesday. (News-Press photo).

He’s into his fifth month on the job, but Falls Church’s new police chief Shahram Fard is continuing to work hard to familiarize himself with every element of the community here because community policing is his particular passion.

Chief Fard addressed the monthly luncheon of the Falls Church Chamber of Commerce at the Italian Inn Tuesday and offered a deeply personal account of fleeing with his family from Iran in the wake of the Ayatollah revolution there in the early 1980s, and his family’s struggles once emigrated to the U.S.when he was just 12.

His dad was a civil engineer in Iran, but forced to flee on horseback incognito across the border into Turkey, eventually winding up in Montgomery County, Maryland, and then Richmond, Virginia. Long story short, as an admirer of public safety work of police at a young age, once in the U.S. his aspirations led him to a career in policing, including 26 years with the Alexandria Police Department, rising to the level of deputy chief.

Long-time friends with retiring Falls Church Chief Mary Gavin, Fard said that rather than retiring, he was persuaded to apply for the job as Gavin’s successor here, and was vetted by the Virginia Association of Chiefs of Police that ran the Falls Church recruitment effort.

But it was his sensibility to the struggles on small business owners, in particular, that underscored his desire to serve in the area of public safety. Stripped of his opportunity to work as a civil engineer in the U.S., Chief Fard’s dad was forced to do whatever it took to raise his family in the U.S., and that meant as a rug merchant in Montgomery County, where he faced all the ups and downs of running a small business, including the devastating effect that thefts and robberies had. With so little margin for error as a retailer, his dad fought to make ends meet for his family, and even his wife had to take work as a salesperson at Macy’s.

This further motivated him to serve in upholding the rule of law, he said, and “community engagement remains huge to me,” he told the Chamber luncheon. “So, why do I do it,” he asked rhetorically, replying to his own question, “Because it comes from the heart.”

“I enjoy building relationships and ‘customer service’ are the two most important words to me,” he said. He noted the particular challenge for police lies in the fact that one bad encounter can soil relations with an entire community and “impairs all of us.” He cited how the highly-publicized case of the police murder of George Floyd in Minnesota in 2020 “forever changed policing.”

“It is fragile for police to keep the trust of a community,” he said.

Among the important new aspects of policing is the emphasis now on “Crisis Intervention Training (or CIT) now, and he applauded the efforts in F.C. on this score, noting that 98 percent of F.C. officers have been through the training, more than the 70 percent of officers in Alexandria, for example.

More efforts long these lines are in the works, too, he said, including a volunteer “co-responders program,” and a soon-to-be-implemented “table top exercise” based on response to hypothetical incidents, and a “rape aggressor defensive program” that has proven highly effective. Falls Church will also be introduced to a new “National Night Out” exercise to which the public will be invited in Cherry Hill Park on August 6 where a wide variety of safety options will be presented.

In leading up to the introduction of Chief Fard at Tuesday’s luncheon, the Eden Center‘s Alan Frank noted that last month the chief came for a visit to the Eden Center, and wound up spending the afternoon there going from retailer to retailer at the popular Vietnamese-American center to personally meet and listen to all of the small businessmen there.

As the Falls Church Police Department has a dedicated space at the Eden Center to occupy as needed, so a similar space has been provided at the Hoffman Company’s massive new 10-acre West End development, considered important in its own right but also because of its close proximity to Meridian High and Henderson Middle schools. The police facility there is less than 100 yards from the high school, he noted, on top of the fact that there are now two school resource officers at the schools themselves.

Chief Fard meets weekly with Falls Church’s City Manager Wyatt Shields and recently met with the Metro Transit captain of security as pedestrian and other traffic to and from the West Falls Church Metrorail station is expected to increase rapidly as the West End project comes more toward completion.

As of July 1 and the beginning of a new fiscal year in Falls Church, the City Council has authorized the addition of three new officers, bringing the total in the F.C. Department to 40, although some need to be brought through a year of training first. This week, the Northern Virginia police academy graduated one candidate for Falls Church who will still require four or five months of field training.

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