After nearly four decades working as a police officer in Northern Virginia, Purcellville Police Department Lt. and acting police chief Joe Schroeck’s last day on the job will be this Friday.
Schroeck, 56, is set to retire this week after almost 19 years working on the town’s police force. Although he’ll be leaving the station for good at 5 p.m. on Friday, his retirement won’t be effective until Aug. 1. Schroeck said his decision to retire from law enforcement was fueled by his desire to spend more time with his family after feeling that he had put work first and neglected them for years.
“I’ve contemplated it probably for well over a year,” he said. “I just want to focus on my family.”
In his place, Town Manager David Mekarski this week appointed Sgt. Mike Owens as the town’s acting police chief. “My main focus right now is making sure that the citizens of Purcellville are still provided with 24/7 police protection,” Owens said.
With police Chief Cynthia McAlister on paid administrative leave since last August for multiple investigations into allegations of her misconduct to be conducted, Schroeck has filled in as acting chief for 11 months now. Although taking on that responsibility has weighed on him a bit, he said it did not play into his decision to retire. “It has been difficult, but we’ve powered through it,” he said.
In fact, it was a month before McAlister was placed on administrative leave that Schroeck first thought he might soon retire. While his original plan was to do so in January, that idea was sidelined when former interim town manager John Anzivino asked him to stick around a little longer to help keep the police department on track, followed by Mekarski recently asking the same thing of him.
It was in May that Schroeck made the decision to retire this summer, six years after first being eligible for retirement.
“I thought it was a good time,” he said. “I’ve been here a long time.”
Mayor Kwasi Fraser said that Schroeck’s leadership throughout the last few decades has helped the police department to keep the community safe and protected. Fraser also noted that Schroeck embraced the role of acting police chief and led the department through its recent challenges.
“Lt. Schroeck has been a great public servant in that he has always been accessible and responsive to the public safety needs of our community,” he said. “We thank him for his years of service to the people of Purcellville and wish him and his family the best in the future.”
Schroeck said that what he will remember the most about working in Purcellville is interacting with the residents and realizing that none of them complain about where they live, but instead talk about how much they love the town.
“It’s just unusual,” he said. “I think that’s the best thing about the job.”
As for specific memorable events, Schroeck said that the 2014 killing of 17-year-old Christian Sierra by officer Timothy Hood was impactful and a “difficult time for the department.”
“It took us a little while to get over that,” he said.
Before Schroeck came to Purcellville, he worked as an officer with the Herndon Police Department for 17 years from 1983 to 2000. After taking a job as at the Purcellville Police Department shortly after, Schroeck was promoted to lieutenant in 2014.
Now set for a long-awaited retirement, Schroeck said he would consider part time work after at least a year of spending time with his family and taking a break from it all.