COLONIAL HEIGHTS, Va. -- Virginia State Police honored retired trooper Rock Howard at a recent event. Howard, 97, is considered one-of-a-kind among his Virginia State Police family.
"This is a very special occasion for us to recognize a division one legend, and I say that sincerely. Rock Howard is a legend," Virginia State Police Superintendent Col. Gary Settle said at the event. "Rock was one of those folks who dedicated his life, 33 years of service, to the Commonwealth of Virginia."
Howard said when he began policing in the 1950s, the job was much different.
"There were three of us working two and a half counties," Howard recalled. "We were, of course, working six days a week, at least eight to ten hours a day. We didn't even work a schedule. We just go to work, work till you decide to go home, and then they'd call you."
While Virginia State Trooper Chris Foster picked up Howard in one of the department's new SUVs, during the event Virginia State Police displayed a car similar to the one Howard would have been issued in the 1950s.
"Looking at the police car from 1950, it opened up my eyes to the technology that we do have in the cars that they didn't have back then," Trooper Foster said.
The lack of technology and manpower available to Howard when he started in policing made his job difficult, according to Settle.
"They say, this is a really a tough time to be a police officer. And it is. There are challenges these days. But I would argue when [Howard] was a young trooper and working through some of the challenges through the years was much more difficult in many ways than maybe what we're faced with today," Settle said.
While Howard retired from the Virginia State Police in 1984, friends say his influence has carried over to this day.
"I meant when I said about him being the state police standard," one friend said. "You have to have seen him and know him in uniform. That's when leather was real leather and shoes were real leather shoes. He was a spit polish, first class gentlemen."
The replica 1950s Virginia State Police car is on display at the Keystone Antique Truck & Tractor Museum in Colonial Heights.
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