On February 1, 1940, the Arlington County Police Department was formed. Harry Woodyard, a deputy sheriff, became the first Chief of Police. Expanding rapidly, the Police Division grew from its original nine members to thirty-nine members by 1943. Population growth and the manpower demands of World War II forced the county to consider every option for keeping its citizens safe. Forty-five volunteers were sworn into the Auxiliary Police organization which was formed in 1942.
Although police academy training as we know it today would not come about for nearly two decades, full time recruit classes began in 1948. The officers used cars, motorcycles, and foot beats to patrol the county. Arlington was patrolled by 4 cars and 13 motorcycles. Because motorcycle officers did not carry radios, they could only be dispatched to calls by routine checks with the station over the telephone. Later, officers were dispatched by the District of Columbia Police over a one way radio, the responding officer could not acknowledge a response. When the call was finished, the disposition was relayed via one of twenty-six telephone call boxes located through out the county.
Starting with an organizational change, the Police Division placed five major bureaus under the direction of the Chief of Police: Operations, Administrative, Detective, Traffic Safety, and Juvenile. In 1954, a system was adopted by police communications whereby a written record was made by the police officer who was assigned to process calls. The record showed the time, date, location, type of call, and complainant. This type of system became helpful in gathering information for surveys on the length of time it took units to respond to calls and length of time spent on various calls. Also during the time, qualifications for the hiring of police officers were established. An applicant for a police officer position had to be between the ages of 21-30 years, in good physical condition, a minimum height of 5'8", have excellent character and reputation and be able to drive a car. Applicants also had to take a written test on their mental ability, spelling, penmanship, and grammar. A personality evaluation, character investigation and medical examination were also given. In August of 1958, a Civil Disturbance Unit was established. Officers were trained to handle calls such as searching for lost children, barricade situations, scenes of disaster, and integration of schools in the county.
For the Police Division, the 1960s was considered to be a period of restructuring of traditional police programs, with emphasis on training and education. In 1960, the only firing range that was used by the officers was an indoor range at Washington-Lee High School which had a maximum distance of fifty feet. Later, funds were appropriated for a joint outdoor range located in a neighboring police department. By 1961, young people interested in becoming police officers were hired as police cadets and given civilian duties throughout the department. Their uniforms were distinctly marked to identify them as cadets. On October 1, 1963, the Police Division separated from Public Safety and became the Police Department. As a result of this separation many functional and personnel changes took effect. The ultimate goal of these changes was to furnish a higher level of individual performance and provide the best service to the citizens of Arlington County. The Communications Center was upgraded and improvements were added, such as a control panel with burglar and hold up alarms, and a speaker system and paging system. A police electronic control panel was installed with lights indicating police units that were assigned, and whether or not they were available for calls. In 1967, police officers were assigned to a special detail to assist in the control of demonstrators at the pentagon who were protesting the Vietnam War. Later that year the Department would establish a canine unit consisting of two dogs and their handlers.
The Police Department continued to search for methods which assured the highest possible quality of service to the public and expanded those methods. Beats were reconfigured, clustered together in districts which were staffed by officers and police agents, and supervised by District Supervisors - now Police Corporals. The work week for patrol officers was shortened to four ten hour days. The Patrol Division created an experimental program which deployed foot patrol and scooter patrol in selected areas of the county. During the mid-seventies the Department formed many new units to specialize in their enforcement efforts. A tactical unit was formed to reduce crimes such as purse snatching, peeping toms and robberies. The Research & Development Unit, Community Resource Unit, S.W.A.T., and Licensing Unit were also formed. In October 1978, Captain William K. Stover was appointed by the County Manager to become the county's fourth Police Chief. Looking back at the decade of the 1970's, the Police Department introduced many new programs, including the 4-10 plan, district team policing, police agent concept, women on patrol, community service aids, take-home vehicles, patrol follow-up and permanent shifts. According to national police research sources, no other police department in the United States had all these programs in combination.
By 1980, the quintessential "state of the art" in training, equipment and technology had firmly established Arlington as a prototype for "America's Best" in modern police service. Pin maps were nearly rendered obsolete by rapidly developing computerization. A prime example was the creation of the Crime Analysis Unit for the purpose of assistance in crime investigation through the gathering and dissemination of information. The Emergency Communications Center installed a Computer Aided Dispatch system. This system included mobile data terminals in police vehicles. These computers were the first of their kind in the metropolitan area, and the latest technological advancement of the Police Department. The goal of the mobile data terminal was to improve officer safety, reduce radio congestion, receive rapid response to inquiries, and to assist in the recovery of stolen automobiles and property. In 1983, the Department installed a Records Management System which improved the collection and dissemination of information. The Police Department and the county's Department of Human Services (DHS) began an experimental program that provides for trained emergency therapists from DHS to respond to scenes with officers, providing crisis management intervention. These therapists assist with difficult social problems such as domestic disputes, suicide prevention, and screening for possible mental commitment.
In the 1990's, policing began to seriously focus on quality of life violations. Aggressive driving, panhandling, alcohol sales to minors, and public drunkenness were given increased emphasis. Community Policing was first introduced in 1990 by deploying community-based problem-oriented policing (CB-POP) teams, whose mission was to establish cooperative relationships with diverse communities. In 1997, William K. Stover retired and was replaced by acting Chief Robert A. Dreischer, a long time Deputy Chief. In 1998, new Police Chief Edward A. Flynn reorganized the Department into four Police Districts. In addition, the uniforms were replaced by a high-quality dark blue shirt and matching trouser stripe. A multi-colored, more distinctive patch replaced the blue and gray of old. Cruisers also took on a more contemporary look with updated decals and striping. A Citizen's Police Academy was successfully launched, thanks in large part to thorough planning and preparation by Sergeant Regina Heising. By 1997, crime in Arlington declined to its lowest level since 1984, even though Arlington's population increased 5% to 187,100.