A BRIEF HISTORY of the WINTERGREEN POLICE DEPARTMENT
The Wintergreen Police Department was officially established on May 1, 1978 by Wintergreen Development, Inc. Personnel consisted of a Director of Public Safety, a Chief of Police and seven Officers. The police office was located in the Wintergreen Development Administration Building, located on Route 151 near the entrance to Stoney Creek. The department began with two 1978 4×4 Broncos that were marked and used as patrol vehicles. The department shared a 2-channel low-band radio system with all other community departments in existence at that time.
Prior to 1985, duties of the officers included both the patrol of the Wintergreen community and dispatching for police, fire and rescue. Generally, one officer patrolled the community and one officer dispatched, switching duties in the middle of the assigned shift. Twenty four-hour patrol of the community did not begin until 1989. Though the agency was a private police department, the Central Virginia Criminal Justice Academy allowed officers to attend their police academy. Today, the department is now a member agency of the Central Virginia Criminal Justice Academy.
Prior to 1989, the Chief of Police reported to the General Sales Manager of Wintergreen Development. On January 1, 1989, the Wintergreen Property Owners Association became a separate entity with its own Board of Directors and Executive Director. The Board governs the Association and provides the community with police, fire, rescue, roadways, street maintenance and public area landscaping functions. The Chief now reports directly to the Executive Director of the Wintergreen Property Owners Association. The department serves both a mountain and valley community, which contains approximately 2200 dwellings served by 53-plus miles of roadway within its 17 square miles of jurisdiction.
The officers’ uniform has been modified over the years from looking similar to a park ranger to the modern day BDU style of uniform. The officers’ firearms have also evolved over the years from the basic two-inch revolver to the semi-auto Glock 9mm pistol. Other issued firearms include 12-gauge shotguns and S&W MP15 patrol rifles. Additional officer equipment includes OC chemical spray, ASP and Tasers as non-lethal weapons.
The department has grown and expanded over the last 42 years. The full-time positions include a Police Chief, Deputy Chief, Investigations/Accreditation Lieutenant, eight Patrol Officers, Communications Administrator, and four Communications Officers (a fifth dispatcher is part-time). In 1992, the Wintergreen Police Department became the first private police department to be recognized as a “Criminal Justice Agency” by the Virginia Department of Criminal Justice Services. In 2015, the Wintergreen Police Department was recognized as a “Law Enforcement Agency” as established by the Code of Virginia.
The present day E911 communications center for the Wintergreen Police Department began as an 8-foot by 8-foot guardhouse, until 1989 when it was rebuilt and moved to its current location. Today, the center provides dispatching and paging for Wintergreen Fire, Rescue and police services, and has the ability to provide back-up dispatching for all Nelson County emergency services departments. In early 2012, the department received its own VCIN/NCIC terminal operating in the communications center.
Toward the end of 2014, a new two-story Wintergreen Police building was completed, which adjoined the existing gatehouse/communications center. Today, our police building encompasses a separated visitor’s area, four offices, a patrol work area, a conference/ training room, secured evidence and property rooms, a secured weapons storage/cleaning room, two interview rooms with built-in recording systems, a uniform closet, a kitchen and restroom facilities.
Patrol officers drive in excess of 120,000 miles per year, while providing full police services to the community of Wintergreen. Today, the department’s fleet consists of fifteen fully equipped police cruisers. All vehicles, both marked and unmarked, are supplied with modern day multi-channel scanning radio systems with the ability to communicate department wide and directly with other local agencies (Sheriff, EMS/Fire).
Through a Memorandum of Understanding between the Sheriff and the Chief, Wintergreen officers provide assistance outside the Wintergreen community when requested by the Nelson County Sheriff’s Office. All patrol officers and communications personnel graduated from approved criminal justice academies in Virginia, and they complete in-service and advanced training as set by state guidelines.
The Department has always striven to use the evolution of change for the betterment of the profession of law enforcement, both within the community and in its relationship with other jurisdictions; hence, Accreditation. The accreditation process offers an opportunity for professionalism at an even higher standard, which the department seeks to achieve and maintain on a daily basis. The Wintergreen Police Department was designated as a State Accredited Agency in February 2008 by the Virginia Law Enforcement Professional Standards Commission. The Department is presently the only private police agency in the Commonwealth to achieve the status of state accreditation. In December of 2011, the department undertook its second successful review by the Commission for proof of compliance in maintaining its accredited status for another 4-year term. In December of 2015, the department received its third successful re-accreditation assessment.
The Wintergreen Police Department is looking forward to a comprehensive, standards review by a team of professional assessors in January of 2020, with the goal of continuing accreditation status for another four years.