Loudoun County Sheriff Mike Chapman (R) is pushing back against the Board of Supervisors' efforts to create countywide police department.
The board is expected to take the first formal step toward creating a police department on July 21 by voting to advance the proposal. Voters will have the ultimate say in the matter, as it has to be approved by referendum before being implemented.
A county police department would dramatically reduce the reach and scope of the county sheriff's office.
“Proponents of this change have said they want to take politics out of law enforcement, but in fact, they want to do just the opposite,” Chapman said in a prepared statement Saturday morning. “This is a reckless power grab intended to inject partisan politics into public safety and forever change the direct accountability of the sheriff’s office to the people of Loudoun County.”
Neighboring Fairfax County operates with a police department taking primary law enforcement duties across the county, while the sheriff's office oversees courthouse security and oversight of the jail. It's expected Loudoun would operate similarly, with a county police chief hired by the county administrator.
Chairwoman Phyllis Randall (D-At Large), a supporter of a county police department, has said she's concerned with Loudoun deputies' job security – previous Loudoun deputies have been fired for supporting Chapman's political rivals – and claimed the sheriff’s office lacks transparency. Randall said deputies' jobs shouldn't be at risk depending on their politics and who 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 after winning re-election in 2019.
Countering, Chapman said the estimated cost of the change would be more than $20 million. He noted Saturday that Loudoun County government expects to experience as much as a $100 million budget shortfall this fiscal year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
According to a statement from the sheriff's office, the LCSO has a nearly 90 percent public approval rating per a recent Loudoun County government-initiated citizen survey. Loudoun has also experienced a 32 percent drop in serious crime since Chapman began his first term in 2012, according to the Metropolitan Council of Governments Report on Crime and Control.
“The [county police department] proposal ... comes without any evidence to support its merits, nor with any organized public input or a comprehensive study that would necessarily include input from LCSO and other stakeholders,” Chapman said.