Constable Steven Morris, thousands of miles from his tiny Central England village, wanted a taste of home while in America.
So, he and a couple of buddies went to McDonald’s.
“We said that we should stop at McDonald’s everywhere we went [in our visit to the United States],” Morris said. “We’ve been to ones in Washington, D.C., and New York City.”
While Morris said that the Golden Arches’ wrappers cause most of the problems in his home village of Barrow-upon-Soar — the Brits are horrible litterers, he said — his trip to the States has a far more constructive purpose.
Morris, a police officer in the Leicestershire Constabulary, 100 miles north of London, was selected as last year’s Police Constable of the Year; the prize: an all-expense paid trip to visit any police agency in the world.
He selected Prince William County.
“I knew that a group of 40 of us were coming to Washington anyway for [a weeklong national tribute to fallen police officers],” said Morris, a self-described community police officer for the past 25 years. “I wanted to visit [an agency] with strong community policing. I was pushed in the direction of Prince William County. This department is seen as a bit of leading light.”
For the past week, Morris has stayed with county Police Chief Charlie T. Deane and soaked up how things are done here.
“We’re very pleased that he’s here,” Deane said. “I think he’s learning a lot about this county. He’s getting to see how it works.”
Over the past week, Morris visited the Public Safety Training Academy in Nokesville.
On Tuesday, he appeared before the Prince William Board of County Supervisors, recalling stories about visitors to his small village and presenting County Executive Craig S. Gerhart with a plaque, which included a carving etched with a nail, of important places there.
He has ridden along with officers and sat in on a citizen’s police academy session — an experience he said he will surely take back with him across the Atlantic.
“Generally, although we embrace the citizens, we do not have classes. Our instruction is on a personal level,” said Morris, 48. “I was quite excited by it all. We ought to put a little more time in effort into informing the public and have these classes.”
While Morris chose Prince William County because he saw similarities between the jurisdiction and Barrow-upon-Soar, there are a number of noticeable differences.
As the village’s only cop, he is responsible for the roughly 6,000 people who live in the mile-by-half-mile boundaries. Almost 300,000 people live in Prince William.
Four people have been murdered in the county and Manassas since the beginning of the year. There’s been one murder since 1995 in Barrow-upon-Soar.
But the biggest difference Morris came across in the United States was that every police officer was armed.
In the United Kingdom, which has banned the individual ownership of handguns, a very small percentage of the police officers are protected with firearms.
“The public does not want us to carry guns,” Morris said. “And the police officers do not want to shoot people.”
Morris’ first trip to the United States has not been limited to Northern Virginia. In addition to attending the candlelight vigil for fallen police officers in Washington, Morris visited the nearly finished cleanup project at ground zero in New York.
“It was still very moving. We wanted to come and show our support of law enforcement agents here,” Morris said. “
As for the McDonald’s wrappers in the United States, Morris said that he did not see litter as a big problem.
“I am amazed by how clean America is,” he said with a smile. “I haven’t seen any litter. It’s very pleasing to the eye.”
Staff writer Adam H. Beasley can be reached at (703) 878-8065.