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, Chief of Police and seven officers. The police office was located within the Wintergreen Development Administration Building located on Route 151 in Nellysford. 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. Today, the department’s fleet of 15 vehicles includes standard police cruisers and 4×4 vehicles. All vehicles today, both marked and unmarked, are equipped with modern day multi-channel scanning high-band radio systems with the ability to communicate with in-house and local jurisdictions.
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 department was a private police department, the Central Virginia Criminal Justice Academy allowed officers to attend the 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 and through the Board governs and provides the community with police, fire, rescue, roads, road maintenance and public area landscaping functions. The Chief now reports directly to the Executive Director of the Wintergreen Property Owners Association. The Wintergreen community the department serves has also expanded to include valley and mountain communities containing 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 firearm has also evolved over the years from the basic two-inch revolver to the semi-auto Beretta 9mm and includes 12-gauge shotguns and patrol rifles. Other officer equipment includes OC chemical spray, ASP and tasers as less lethal weapons.
The Department has grown and expanded over the last 32 years. Presently it includes a Chief, Assistant Chief, Patrol/Investigator Sergeant, Accreditation Sergeant, an Administrative Assistant, eight patrol officers, four communications officers and two part-time patrol officers. The Department also became the first private police department to be recognized as a ‘criminal justice agency’ by Virginia Department of Criminal Justice Services in 1992.
The present day E911 communications center 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 ES departments. Presently, the department receives VCIN/NCIC (Virginia and national crime information) and DMV information from the Nelson County Sheriffs Office through mutual agreements between both agencies. In early 2012 the department received its own VCIN/NCIC terminal operating in the communications center. All employees of the department are presently trained to meet the required standards for its operation.
Patrol officers drive in excess of 120,000 miles per year providing full police services to the community of Wintergreen and assist other local jurisdictions (National Park Service, Nelson County Sheriff’s Office and VA State Police) upon request. Through an agreement between the Sheriff and the Chief all officers are appointed as special deputies for Nelson County. All patrol officers and communications personnel graduate from approved criminal justice academies in Virginia and attend in-service training as required by state guidelines and re-qualify annually with all firearms.
Patrol vehicles are equipped with high-band radios, first aid and OSHA blood borne pathogen supplies, radar and various other equipment. Each patrol officer is issued all equipment, a portable radio, pager and uniforms. The department also utilizes an in-house computer network system which provides information to officers twenty-four hours a day seven days a week. The Department uses a custom in-house designed reporting system for record-keeping.
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 we seek to achieve and maintain on a daily basis. The 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.
In September of 2011 Chief Stan Olah was appointed to the Virginia Law Enforcement Professional Standards Commission (VLEPSC) by the Virginia Association of Chiefs of Police.