ROCKVILLE – Even with 27 years of service to the city, city Police Chief Terry Treschuk did not plan his upcoming retirement without resistance.
“I begged him not to go,” said Mayor Bridget Donnell Newton with a laugh during the Monday night City Council meeting. “As much as you deserve your retirement, we’re going to miss you terribly.”
At age 66, however, Treschuk is headed out June 1, leaving the city Police Department in the hands of soon to be acting police chief, Major Bob Rappoport, a 28-year veteran of the city police force.
The mayor and City Council celebrated Treschuk May 23 with a host of awards, including the ceremonial key to the city, presented him by council member Virginia Onley.
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Council member Mark Pierzchala offered a folded up flag of Rockville, with its six red crosses spread out in two diagonal columns against a blue and white backdrop.
Newton noted Treschuk has not missed a single Lincoln Park community meeting since he became police chief in 1989.
That community in particular offered the police chief his best moment on the force, he said.
“One of my happiest times was when I was accepted by one community I was included with for many, many years,” recalled Treschuk, referring to Lincoln Park, a largely African American neighborhood located east of MD-355 along N. Horners Lane.
In the late 1980s and 1990s, residents faced significant law enforcement challenges, particularly from drug crimes.
The chief walked the streets in the neighborhood, established a rapport with the residents, attended every community meeting and developed trust to the point that he became a familiar figure within 10 years.
He realized he gained acceptance there at some point in the late 1990s “when one of the people started calling me by my last name, when they were just saying ‘Treschuk,’” he said. “That was pretty good.”
According to Treschuk, the goal for his department in that area was to enhance the quality of life for the people living there.
“We wanted to give the neighborhood back to the neighborhood,” he said, adding the department succeeded in its mission.
“It’s a wonderful community. It’s a safe community,” he said. “I think it was just an evolutionary process where we knew things were (going) really well.”
However, he noted “issues and problems are not the same for every community,” so it’s important for police officers to be adequately trained in multiple facets of police work.
As the community has evolved around him, Treschuk has also evolved in his approach to policing.
Part of that includes not just physical wellness programs for his deputies but mental wellness programs too.
They’re part of what he described as a “holistic approach” to taking care of officers, where resources are available for the people who see the horrors that come with police work, like death and violence.
“Everyone is going to see something in their career that’s going to bother them and it’s okay to talk to someone about it,” he said.
That’s a sea change compared to how the public at large and police themselves perceived each other when Treschuk entered policing 44 years ago.
He explained back then, it was more like “Dragnet,” a 1950s television show about police that popularized the catch phrase, “Just the facts, ma’am.”
With that sort of mindset, officers would see mentally disturbing scenes play out in real life but would often keep a barrier of emotional disconnect from the communities they served, he said.
“That didn’t work. You had to be part of the community,” said Treschuk. “We’re still the tough guys but we have feelings, like everyone else, and it’s important to address those feelings.”
Treschuk pointed out that back in the old days, people would sympathize with police but today there is more of an emphasis on both sympathy and empathy.
“You see and hear things that can really cause you issues,” said Treschuk.
Now, however, “officers have all the resources to do the job.”
When Rappoport exited the police academy in 1988 and joined the Rockville Police Department, he found a small force with limited equipment, with officers having to borrow flashlights from each other and try to claim the best cruisers.
“It was, you got here early in your shift to get a flashlight that was charged,” said Rappoport.
He credited Treschuk for helping modernize the police force and bringing the department up to a standard where individual officers have equipment assigned to them.
“The chief is, was always a pioneer in new programs,” said Rappoport, later adding, “A lot of things that help the officer, he’s always been behind. He’s stood beside us and he’s stood behind us every step of the way.”
Part of the community-building emphasis Treschuk focused on for the city shows in the length of tenure the officers themselves serve.
Rappoport recalled how, when he and Treschuk first arrived in the late 1980s, officers would stay on board typically one to three years, using the municipal department as a springboard to other jurisdictions.
Monday at City Hall, the three police officers presented totaled 92 years of service to Rockville, with Major Michael England topping both Treschuk and Rappoport with 37 years in the city.
“He’s really turned this department around since he came in 27 years ago,” said England about Treschuk.
During Rappoport’s tenure in the city, he’s climbed the ranks from police officer to corporal, sergeant, lieutenant, captain (a now defunct title) and major, his current rank.
He also served as a D.A.R.E. officer in the 1990s for the 11 elementary schools and three private schools within the city.
“I still see some of those kids today,” said Rappoport. “One of them just graduated college. One of them has a family… It’s a great feeling to know I and the department made a positive impact in their lives.”
The most rewarding part about teaching D.A.R.E., said Rappoport, was seeing the essays fifth grade students would write about staying drug free and away from crime.
Those writings showed “they really grasped the lessons that we taught them,” he said.
Acting City Manager Craig Simoneau hired Rappoport as the acting police chief among a field of two candidates, according to Rappoport.
Simoneau, however, has not yet announced who will be taking the position full-time.
Treschuk said while he would love for the next city police chief to be someone from within the department, “competition is good,” noting he won the job against a field of 170 applicants in 1989.
He said becoming police chief has been a dream of his since he entered the police force two years after graduating Lycoming College with a Bachelor of Arts degree in criminal justice in 1986.
Rappaport worked as a loss prevention officer for the Marriott Corporation before his first day at the Rockville Police Department: March 1, 1988.
“When I became a police officer, I said, ‘I want to someday be a police chief,’” he said.
Unlike Treschuk, who lives in the city, Rappoport lives just outside the city’s boundaries in Aspen Hill.
However, while Treschuk grew up in Connecticut, Rappoport is local to the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area.
The Eagle Scout attended Langley High School in McLean, Va., for two years before transferring to St. John’s College High School in the District of Columbia, where he graduated in 1982.
After Treschuk entered the police force, Rappoport became one of the first officers Treschuk said he rode with on patrol in 1989.
Since then, Rappoport, who graduated from the FBI National Academy in 2007, has become the police liaison to East Rockville Civic Association, New Mark Commons and at various times Rockshire.
When Treschuk leaves June 1, Rappoport will take over as the liaison to Lincoln Park while Sgt. Jan Seilhamer takes over another of Treschuk’s roles as the department liaison to the LGBTQ community,
Treschuk said he may work for a non-profit company after he retires or teach classes on criminal justice like he used to before becoming police chief.
Whatever happens, he said he’ll be leaving the force holding his head up high.
“I’m at peace with leaving law enforcement,” he said. “I’ve done the best I could do to the best of my ability.”