- The Washington Times - Friday, May 18, 2001

WINCHESTER, Va. — A high-speed car chase in which a rookie police officer sped away from a deputy sheriff threatens to hamper the retention efforts of the police chief of this bedroom community, home to a growing number of D.C. commuters.
Winchester Police Chief Gary W. Reynolds has struggled to keep his force at its fully funded level of 68 officers, losing veterans and would-be recruits to state and federal agencies that offer more money than the city police departments $29,264 base annual salary. The police department has seven vacancies.
This city of about 23,000 residents lies near Virginias borders with Maryland and West Virginia, as well as Pennsylvanias southern border, making it a likely getaway for out-of-state drug dealers, said Chief Reynolds, who has arranged for the federal Drug Enforcement Administration to open an office in Winchester.
Police observers here say Chief Reynolds is desperate to keep his staff — so desperate, in fact, as to gloss over a reckless-driving case involving a newly hired officer accused of speeding up to 110 mph to elude a Frederick County deputy sheriff in February. City and county officials have declined to discuss the case, saying they know little about it.
"To me, there has been no cover-up by any law enforcement agency," Chief Reynolds said.
"As far as I am concerned, [Chief Reynolds] is a good police chief," said Mayor Larry T. Omps.
Officer Trevor Reinhart, 24, faces a maximum penalty of $2,500 and 12 months in jail when he appears in Frederick County District Court next month on charges of speeding and reckless driving. Judges are inclined to impose jail sentences for speeders driving faster than 85 mph, and officers who are sentenced to jail must be fired, the chief said.
According to a charging document filed Feb. 14, county Deputy Sheriff B.A. Kittoe chased down a speeding Grand Am on Martinsburg Pike (U.S. Route 11) between 2 and 4 a.m. on Feb. 4.
"The posted speed limit on Martinsburg Pike is 45 mph. I then proceeded southbound on Martinsburg Pike in effort to catch up to the vehicle. Once I closed in on the vehicle, it appeared to increase its speed, at which point I looked at my speedometer and it registered 110 mph.
"The speedometer in my patrol vehicle is calibrated," Deputy Kittoe said in the charging document. "The driver of the vehicle was identified as Trevor D. Reinhart with a Virginia drivers license."
The charging document does not identify Officer Reinhart as a police officer or mention that his front-seat passenger was Winchester Police Lt. Tim Rice. There is no information how far Deputy Kittoe chased the Grand Am, if the driver stopped voluntarily, how the driver identified himself or if alcohol was involved.
A source familiar with the case told The Washington Times that Deputy Kittoe, who videotaped the chase, did not administer a field sobriety test and that Officer Reinhart immediately displayed his badge after stopping. The deputy told Officer Reinhart to park his car and call for a ride, and when the rookie officer did not do that, Deputy Kittoe decided to file charges, the source said.
Within hours after the incident, Officer Reinhart called his boss. "Chief, I thought it was best that you hear it from me," Chief Reynolds quoted the rookie as saying. "He said he needed to report it. He didnt know he was going to be charged."
The next day, Chief Reynolds ordered an "administrative personnel investigation" to determine if Officer Reinhart had violated department regulations, the chief said, adding that the sheriffs office also decided that charges would be filed.
Investigators found no violation of department policy, and "I have taken appropriate action," Chief Reynolds said, adding that "I took what I believed to be appropriate action" with regard to Lt. Rice.
One form of discipline would be to extend the six-month probation usually allotted to rookies, during which they may be terminated. Chief Reynolds said Officer Reinhart, who was hired on Aug. 21, is still on probation, but declined to say if his probation has been extended.
"Since his employment, other than this allegation, there has not been a single complaint from the public or fellow officers about his performance or conduct," the chief said.
Officer Reinhart declined to discuss the case. "Im sorry. Ill have to get with my attorney," he said, refusing to give his attorneys name, which is not listed on court records.
Winchesters problems in retaining officers reflects a trend across the state and the country. According to Law Enforcement News of the John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York, fewer job seekers are applying for law-enforcement work. Police agencies in Richmond and Henrico, Chesterfield and Hanover counties had 100 vacancies for officers at the end of last year, according to an article in the Richmond Times-Dispatch.


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