Virginia “Ginny” Hill-Obranovich’s life has been entwined with the Alexandria Police Department for quite some time. Her current involvement and dedication to the Police Department cannot be explained without first describing the extraordinary circumstances that brought her into the Alexandria Police Department family.
In 1976, Virginia “Ginny” Hill and her husband, Charles “Charlie” Hill, moved from Long Island, New York to Alexandria, Virginia. Charlie had been a New York City police officer. But when New York City faced financial problems in the 1970s and Charlie was laid off, he found a job out of state. On August 2, 1976, he became an Alexandria Police officer. He and Ginny settled in to their new life. In 1982, they welcomed a son, Charles, followed by his brother, Robert, in 1985.
Charlie worked as a patrol officer and was also assigned specialized positions, as a Field Training Officer and an Identification Technician. He joined the Special Operations Team, a tactical response unit, and, in 1980, he became the firearms instructor at the police range. In January 1982, he was promoted to corporal.
On the afternoon of March 22, 1989, Charlie was partnered with Officer Andrew M. Chelchowski when the Special Operations Team was called to the 300 block of Hopkins Court. Jamie M. Wise, a 34-year-old escapee from a Washington, D.C., halfway house, had taken hostages inside a home to collect a drug debt. At 6:35 p.m., Wise emerged, holding a sawed-off shotgun to the head of a teenaged hostage. A police marksman fired and hit Wise. But Wise, high on drugs, was able to fire his weapon before being hit. The suspects’ shots hit Charlie and Officer Chelchowski. Charlie was taken to Washington Hospital Center where he was pronounced dead. He was 40 years-old. The police shooting range and a park in Del Ray were later named in his honor.
Ginny’s life and the life of her sons were forever changed that day. Friends from the Police Department continued to support Ginny in any way they could. “I never really considered myself a strong person,” says Ginny, “I always leaned on him. But with the help of family and Charlie’s friends in the Department I came to see I could be strong and I could get through it.” As the years passed, Ginny decided she wanted to give back to those who helped for her.
In January 2011, Ginny started volunteering as Assistant Volunteer Coordinator with the Police Department. She wanted to contribute to the community that had helped and supported her throughout the years. In the summer of 2011, Ginny became Volunteer Coordinator at the request of former Deputy Chief Cleveland Spruill. She set forth in her new volunteer position with the goal of helping make the jobs of the men and women of the Police Department easier through the use of volunteers. With her guidance, the Volunteer Unit took over public finger-printing. Ginny and her volunteers also took over the SafeAssured ID program. Under her supervision, the number of volunteers at the Police Department increased, giving employees much needed assistance.
In late 2012, Chief Earl Cook asked Ginny if she and her volunteers would be able to restart the Citizens Police Academy (CPA). The academy used to be offered to citizens semiannually until it was eliminated due to budget restraints. Together, Ginny and her volunteers worked studiously and, in March 2012, the CPA began for the first time in over three years. Currently, the academy is offered twice a year and is fully organized and run by volunteers at no cost to the City. “My volunteers are good, hard-working people. They work tirelessly behind the scenes to support the department and I am extremely grateful for their help and the work they do,” said Ginny.
Ginny and the Volunteer Unit also assisted the Alexandria Police Foundation (APF) in updating its website. Ginny began working with the APF to learn more about the organization and what was needed. By the Spring of 2013, the APF had a new website and had named Ginny as its new Executive Director. With Ginny by their side, the APF took over the arduous task of creating and raising funds for an Alexandria Police Memorial to honor the memory of the 18 police officers who lost their lives in service to the City of Alexandria.
With the approval of City Council, the Alexandria Police Foundation began working with HDR Architecture and Whiting-Turner, two local companies, to make the memorial a reality. In nine months, Ginny and the APF raised over 75%, of the total cost of the memorial. In May 2014, City Council gave the APF approval to break ground on the memorial in September 2014.
Ginny has said that she loves the work she does for the Police Department. It is the Department’s family-oriented, caring, and supportive atmosphere that motivates her. It is indeed a family affair, Ginny’s son, Robert, currently serves as an Alexandria police officer and her husband, Richard Obranovich, helps Ginny with her duties. “I think the memorial is going to be a great place not only to honor those who have died,” says Ginny, “but to honor those who still come to work and put their lives on the line every day.”