Loudoun County Sheriff Mike Chapman (R) says a suggestion to create a county police department is merely a way to “change the law enforcement agenda” following his re-election on Tuesday.
A day after the General Election, the newly re-elected county chair Phyllis Randall (D) raised the idea for a county police department during a joint media session with incoming supervisors and members of the School Board.
The first step is to convince the new board -- now dominated by her fellow Democrats -- to move forward with a police department. The final decision would be made by county voters through a referendum.
Chapman (R) has long been opposed to the idea.
“I know [it] wouldn’t be better with a police chief, and I think it’s disingenuous to try and propagate that message when we have such a successful sheriff’s office,” Chapman said on The Larry O’Conner Show.
Concerned with deputies' job security -- previous Loudoun deputies have been fired for supporting Chapman's political rivals -- and the sheriff’s office's transparency, Randall said it’s time to begin the process of forming a county police department that operates under county administration.
Randall said deputies' jobs shouldn't be at risk depending on their politics and whom they support during elections.
“A sheriff of the county is not 'answer loyal' to anyone except every four years to the citizens. But even then, the sheriff can tell the citizens what he wants to tell the citizens—so the citizens only know what the sheriff chooses to tell them. There may be other things that they don’t know,” Randall said on Wednesday.
Fairfax County has both a sheriff’s office and a county police department. The police department essentially handles all the law enforcement tasks of a sheriff’s office except for oversight of the county courthouse and jail.
Chapman did not provide any immediate actions he would be taking following Randall's statement, but he said the proposal would have challenges. He called it “cumbersome” and said it's something that over 400,000 county residents need to know more about.
“I think the citizens need to know what this is exactly about and taking their right way to select their chief law enforcement officer and basically having an entire bureaucracy between them and the chief law enforcement officer who is actually going to be making the decisions,” Chapman said on 105.9 FM. “ ... On our Board of Supervisors, we have one person that has law enforcement experience, and what you are going to have is eight other board members—none of which have a shred of law enforcement experience—trying to tell a law enforcement agency what to do and how to do it.”
The sheriff’s office has a nearly 90% public approval rating, and the agency saw the rate of serious crime drop 32% since the sheriff began his first term in 2012, according to a sheriff’s office release following Chapman’s interview. The agency touted its awards and accolades with school resource officers, crisis training services and drug prevention and enforcement. Under Chapman’s term, the county has also experienced a 10% drop in recidivism due to the re-entry community programs he established in the county’s adult detention center.
Chapman said, “I know it was a ‘Blue Wave’ last night, and fortunately I survived that, but I think that reason is because the citizens see that we are doing an excellent job. They are happy with the service they are getting, and it’s almost like, 'Why is there going to be a move to try and fix something that’s not broken?' it just seems to me to be a matter of just exercising power and control.”