- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Deputy Police Chief Suzanne Devlin is no stranger to battles. During her 33 years with the Fairfax County Police Department, she has traveled difficult paths toward success.

The former Marine Corps drill instructor was hired at age 26 to work for the Fairfax Park Police, an agency that eventually integrated with the county force.

In what she considers a major victory for women, she sued Fairfax County for discrimination in 1988 after having been passed over twice for promotion. Although she had spent nine years of her career as a second lieutenant, supervising 25 people, and returned to work two weeks after the births of her two daughters, the police chief at the time promoted two black officers and a white officer, all men.

Her challenge resulted in contempt and anger on the police force.

“I didn’t mean to make this into a big deal,” she said. “You’ve got to do the right thing.”

The county ultimately settled, promoted her to first lieutenant and resolved the pay disparity.

In 1992, she became the first captain at the Franconia substation.

“By the time I became a captain, the place had changed. I loved running the Franconia station,” she said.

She was promoted later to major and then to deputy chief in 1998.

In 2004, Deputy Chief Devlin was named acting chief when Chief J. Thomas Manger left the department to become chief of the Montgomery County Police Department.

At a conference in Houston that year, she joined the first female police chiefs of major cities such as Detroit, Boston, Milwaukee and San Francisco. The male chiefs in attendance gave them a standing ovation.

“I got to live a dream and watch it happen,” she said.

The current chief is David M. Rohrer. Deputy Chief Devlin is his former supervisor.

“Dave has been a huge promoter of women. He has placed more women in key positions than any chief ever. I don’t think women have ever had it better than they do now,” she said.

She also credits her husband of 25 years, whom she met while in the Marines.

“He’s been an incredible supporter for me,” she said. “My kids and I and my husband, we always enjoy each other’s company.”

Deputy Chief Devlin has developed community safety programs such as bike patrols, school resource officers and a Spanish-learning program. She also helped create flexible work environments and job-sharing opportunities.

In addition, Deputy Chief Devlin teaches courses in community policing at George Mason University. She is a member of several professional organizations and has a strong interest in juvenile delinquency. “I like working with youths, and I try to do that when I can,” she said.

Now serving under her seventh police chief, she said she recognizes the monumental changes for women over the years.

“I don’t think there is a better job out there for women,” she said. “It teaches all the self-actualizing skills. It’s an extremely self-empowering job.

“Police departments have learned to appreciate talents women bring to the department,” she said. “Women discover [that] not only can they become powerful people, but they can live full lives.”

In her spare time, she enjoys nature and hiking. She has three horses that were born and bred in her backyard, four dogs and three cats. “That way, you’re never dealing with the empty nest,” she said.

• Karen L. Bune, a consultant with the Justice Department’s Office for Victims of Crime and Office of Juvenile Justice, is an adjunct professor at George Mason University and Marymount University.

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