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June 17, 2019

Q&A: Every day’s different for state trooper on patrol

Photo/Don Del Rosso
Senior Trooper Derek Mabie joined the Virginia State Police in 2003, after working three years as a Warren County Sheriff’s Office dispatcher.
Every traffic stop you make, you don’t know who you’re coming up against. You don’t know if that person has committed a murder in D.C. or Texas and is coming through, and you just happen to stop them for an equipment violation.
Derek Jason Mabie
• Age: 37

• Home: Warren County

• Work: State trooper, 2003-present; dispatcher, Warren County Sheriff’s Office, 2000-03.

• Salary: About $75,000.

• Family: Wife, Amber; 6 children. His wife has two children from a previous marriage.

• Education: Warren County High School, 2000.

• Hobbies: Camping, hunting and fishing.
By .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)
Staff Journalist
After 16 years on the job, the senior state trooper still can’t wait to get to work.

“You never know what you’re going to get,” explained Derek Mabie, one of 15 troopers and two sergeants assigned to the Virginia State Police “Area 12” office in Warrenton, which covers Fauquier and Rappahannock counties. “I can come to work eight hours and not have any calls. Or, I can come to work and be slam-busy. I like the busy-ness.”

But, that level of activity can cut both ways.

It can make the hours pass quickly, but it also can mean peril, admitted Trooper Mabie, 37.

“There’s no routine traffic stop,” said the Warren County resident, who joined the state police in 2003. “Nowadays, there’s no routine crash . . . . Every day’s something different.”

Over the years, Trooper Mabie has had “several” serious brushes with danger. But none perhaps as memorable as the Aug. 26, 2015, vehicle chase on eastbound Interstate 66, involving a man who that day had shot and killed two Roanoke television journalists and former colleagues during a live morning broadcast.

Trooper Mabie had no reason to believe the day would be much different from any other away from the office.

“I was off duty” and at home when the murders took place, recalled the Hanover County native. “My wife had heard about it. Of course, social media was going crazy about it. It was all over the news. So, I started monitoring the radio.”

When it became clear that the killer appeared headed toward this area, “I left the house with my gun, my vest and my badge. I was in shorts and a t-shirt.”

In a coordinated effort, troopers in about a half dozen cruisers trailed the killer, preparing to stop him.

Driving an unmarked vehicle, Trooper Mabie positioned himself ahead of the assailant.

“He went to try to go around me,” the trooper said. “I blocked him, and then he ultimately took his own life. . . . I watched him in the mirror put the gun up to his head and shoot himself.”

Trooper Mabie’s family left Hanover County in the mid-1980s, when his father resigned as a Richmond Fire Department captain to become chief of the Warren County Fire and Rescue Services Department.

Before he joined the state police in 2003, Trooper Mabie worked three years as a dispatcher with the Warren County Sheriff’s Office.

Time behind the wheel ranges from four to six hours a day, said the trooper, who usually patrols Northern Fauquier.

“In my younger years, when I was more aggressive as far as patrolling and being all over the place, it would be nothing for me to put 1,000 to 1,200 miles on my car a week,” he said. “And now these days, anywhere from 600 to 800 miles a week.”

As of Friday morning, Trooper Mabie’s white, unmarked 2014 Chevy Impala had 123,615 miles on it.

Trooper vehicles usually get replaced when they wrack up 120,000 to 150,000 miles, he said.

Fauquier totals about 651 square miles and Rappahannock about 267 miles. The area office has 12 troopers to patrol Fauquier and three to patrol Rappahannock. Providing around-the-clock protection, troopers work three, eight-hour shifts.

In his spare time, Trooper Mabie runs calls with the Front Royal Volunteer Fire and Rescue Department and coaches for Front Royal-based OutKast Wrestling Club and the Front Royal Midget Football program.

“I just love doing anything I can with the youth,” explained the former middle and high school grappler, whose 9-year-old son Derek wrestles. “Being involved in the community is something I really enjoy doing.”

• Why did you decide to become a trooper?
My dad was captain in the City of Richmond fire department. So, I had always been around public safety as a little boy.

I thought I was going to be a fireman. And then when I became a dispatcher (for the Warren County Sheriff’s Office) at 18, I got exposed to the law enforcement side of things. . . . The Virginia State Police just really kind of stood out as a prestige law enforcement agency.

I put in applications with the City of Richmond and Henrico fire departments and the state police, and the state police hired me.

What’s a typical work day like for you?
I get my coffee. I patrol (Interstate-66) or the roadways in Fauquier, check disabled vehicles, write a few tickets.

But, it’ll be nothing for me to pull people over and give them warnings — just to be in contact with people and the public. I think it’s so much more to it than putting ink on paper. I think just being out there and visible and letting them know we’re not all just ticket-writers.

• What’s the most dangerous part of your job?
Every traffic stop you make, you don’t know who you’re coming up against. You don’t know if that person has committed a murder in D.C. or Texas and is coming through, and you just happen to stop them for an equipment violation.

Walking up to the car, you don’t know if you’re dealing with someone that’s having a mental tragedy or crisis and they want to die (of) suicide by a cop, and they’re going to use you as a reason to do it.

There’s no routine traffic stop. Nowadays, there’s no routine crash.

• Has anybody threatened you in the line of duty?
Nothing serious that I can recall. I’ve had drunks threaten to beat me up.

• Has anybody fired at shot at you?
I’ve never been shot at.

• Has anybody pulled a gun on you?

• Have you ever you ever fired a shot on duty?
Not at a person. Unfortunately, when a deer or something like that’s been hit (by a vehicle) and it’s suffering, obviously we’ll use our weapons to put it out of its misery.

• What do you like most about the work?
The unknown. You never know what you’re going to get. I can come to work eight hours and not have any calls. Or, I can come to work and be slam-busy. I like the busy-ness.

• What are the hardest calls for you to handle?
Anything that deals with children. They’re so innocent. They’re the true victims. I can relate because I have kids.

• What do you like least about the work?
When we lose one of our own, whether I know them or not. Somebody wearing this badge or uniform — it’s a brotherhood. And when they go and pass in a line-of-duty death, that sucks. That’s the worst part of the job.

• Have you ever thought about pursuing a different line of work?
The only other job that’s ever pulled the strings is being a firefighter. So, I would be going from one danger to another.

This is all I know. Putting this uniform on every day, it’s with honor and integrity and professionalism. And, I wouldn’t change anything for the world.

• What does your wife think of the work you do?
She was a 9-1-1 dispatcher when we met, so she understands the job. I couldn’t do this without her, without her support. I can come home and cry on her shoulder. She’s always been there.

Contact Don Del Rosso at or 540-270-0300.
Member comments
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Billy S · June 18, 2019 at 2:17 pm
I rarely comment on this site but for you GD to make such a comment as you did and so many previously with the same intelligence level is in extremely bad taste. I guess you find it amusing. Other readers don’t. You may need help some time and this officer may be there to help you.
Truepat · June 18, 2019 at 8:41 am
Thank you for your service, there were two State Troopers in my family.....
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