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Sheriff’s Office looks to beef up force with drone, more body cameras

The Loudoun County Sheriff’s Office wants $242,300 in fiscal 2016 year-end fund balance funds to expand its body worn camera program and buy a drone for search and rescue operations.

On Tuesday, Loudoun County Sheriff Mike Chapman, Lt. Col. Robert Buckman and Loudoun County Commonwealth’s Attorney Jim Plowman asked the Board of Supervisors’ Finance Committee for help with three “service level priorities,” the offices had identified.

The priorities include securing more funds to expand its body worn camera program over the next three years to 350 cameras by 2019 with a larger staff to manage and maintain the video footage, funding for seven school resource officers if the Town of Leesburg no longer provides them and $99,992 to purchase the drone, its software and provide maintenance and training.

Much of the discussion focused on why the sheriff’s office needed to expand its body camera program which Buckman said would require four more attorneys and two administrative support staff to help the Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office manage the litigation discovery process, a video system administrator and the $142,308 just for data storage, maintenance and replacement of cameras.

“It’s a lot,” Supervisor Tony Buffington (R-Blue Ridge) said. “It ends up adding up to be a lot of money, so I’m wondering how best to implement it?”

Chapman said although Loudoun has a low crime rate and does not have any major community trust issues, body cameras are becoming the “industry standard” and the devices would be used more out of precaution.

“We don’t have a trust issue with the public but again this would be precautionary in many ways in making sure that we’re as transparent as possible and in the event that we have a questionable incident that we do have the evidence necessary to ... find facts one way or the other,” Chapman said.

Other supervisors asked if the cameras were required to be on at all times and how the office would go about retaining the footage.

Buckman said the body cameras were required to be on, but under special circumstances, such as interviewing juveniles and “other issues,” the devices would not need to be turned on.

Buckman and Plowman explained the only videos required under the Freedom of Information Act would be the ones related to criminal charges, but noted Virginia does not yet have a retention schedule for digital evidence although best practice is six months.

However, Chapman said some internal incidents that “didn’t rise to the level of a criminal incident” might not be subject to FOIA.

The sheriff’s office said a drone would help its Project Lifesaver Program, which tracks people with medical conditions that may cause them to wander from home and also help search and rescue efforts in difficult terrain in western Loudoun.

“It’s [drones] just a great search and rescue tool and it can really cover a lot of area very quickly and give us a top-down view of what we need to be looking for,” Chapman said.

Buffington said the drones could be a “force multiplier” for the sheriff’s office and something he thought the county should consider.


I spoke to a few deputies the other day that were telling me how bad staffing is and how the sheriffs office is loosing so many people. But yet chapman still swears by the 8% attrition rate that hes been using for the last 4 years. I just found out some long time well respected deputies resigned from the sheriffs office because of the downward spiral the department is headed in. Time for chapman to leave and the county to get a real leader like a police chief, not a washed up fed that wants to play politician.

This is all nice to have the expensive toys like a drone for (gulp) $100,000!!!  It could be used as a great tool for what was described, but I am not sure about the price tag.  Maybe some further explanation of why it would cost so much is needed.  Body cameras? Yea that is a good idea, but that too causes heavy burden on evidence and collection.  What is really needed is to hire deputies.  I read that they are finally pushing to hire a sizeable number.  That is great, but what took so long?  Also remember that the hiring of the new deputies won’t have an impact for another 16 to 20 months when they are actually on their own.  In the meantime comparing significant reports from 2015 to 2016 for January through July 1st:
Part 1 crimes are up in 3 of 4 stations (up in aggravated assaults, rape and larceny)
Part 2 crimes are up in 2 of 4 stations

The overall for auto thefts are down 18% but don’t tell that to those living in the Dulles South area or out west.  There auto theft is up 240% and 44%.  Again, you don’t get this information easily, you have to go and fish it out.  Why is that? Why can’t we (residents) see what crimes are occurring and where? 
Also burglary is down 23% overall, but out west it is up 46%.  If you break it down further it shows the following;
University station is up in the following:
Assaults 50%, Robbery 350%, larceny 19%, auto theft 44%, narcotics 30%
Dulles South is up in:
aggravated assaults 57%, larceny 5%, auto theft 240%, simple assaults 19%, narcotics 25%
Western station is up in larceny 27% and burglary 46%.
I would again have to ask the board of supervisors in these areas if they get detailed crime statistics, or do they just get the significant report without any comparisons to years past?  If not, then why not? Why can’t we see what is going on both good and bad? So political it is disturbing. Time for a PD.

Did I see a bunch of drones hovering over Dunkin Donuts the other day?

You had me at beef.  Mmmm. 

I can’t wait for drones to deliver burgers to my mouth.

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