Mike Chapman

Loudoun County Sheriff Michael Chapman (R) at the new firearms training facility groundbreaking in February 2019.

The Loudoun County Board of Supervisors is expected to discuss establishing a county police department in early 2020. If supervisors advance the measure, the final decision will fall to voters via referendum, and several steps will take place in order to implement changes to the current state of law enforcement. Here's a rundown on the issue.

Why is this being discussed?

Less than 24 hours after November's election, Loudoun County Board of Supervisors Chairwoman Phyllis Randall (D-At Large) raised the idea of implementing a county police department. In the wake of winning her second term, Randall said she was concerned with deputies’ job security and the office’s transparency.

Newly re-elected Loudoun County Sheriff Mike Chapman (R) has long been opposed the idea and has pointed to the county's relatively low crime rate and his office's numerous accolades in response.

What are the functions of a county police department versus a county sheriff's office?

A locality's police department essentially handles all the law enforcement duties of that locality, according to Virginia Code 15.2-1704.

Were a Loudoun police department to be implemented, there would still be a sheriff's office, but it would merely have oversight of the county courthouse and the county jail.

Under Virginia Code 15.2-528, the county executive would have supervision and control of the county police force.

Loudoun does not have a county executive under its traditional form of government. Instead, it has a county administrator. Randall has said a county police department and its chief would ultimately report to the county administrator.

There are several forms of county government in Virginia.

Establishing a police department is not required under the current “traditional” form of government. However, under a county executive and urban county executive form of government, having a police department is required.

County manager form, county manager plan and county board are the alternative forms of government. The alternative forms, while each is slightly different, vary from the traditional form in three respects, according to government officials: All except the county board form replace the elected commissioner of revenue and treasurer with an appointed director of finance; some of these forms, particularly the county manager form, confer somewhat greater formal powers on the chief administrative officer, and each form prescribes an organizational structure for the county government stipulating that the county will create certain departments.

No formal action has been taken to change the Loudoun County form of government.

Are there other county police departments in the commonwealth?

Yes, Virginia has a total of nine county police departments. In those counties, the police department handles law enforcement and investigative duties, and the sheriff’s office is responsible for court security and the local jail.

While funding for sheriff’s offices comes in part through the Virginia Compensation Board (state funding) and in part through local supplements, local police departments are funded through local funds and “599” funds, which are state funds to localities with police departments that meet certain criteria as defined in Virginia Code 9.1-165 through 9.1-172.

Sheriff’s offices receive funding from the Compensation Board (state funding), which determines a reasonable budget, and through local supplements, according to the Virginia Department of Criminal Justice Services.

The Towns of Leesburg ($887,660) and Purcellville ($114,155) were the only towns in Loudoun County to receive “599” funds in fiscal 2019, according to an Aug. 23 letter from the Department of Criminal Justice Services to committee leaders in the General Assembly.

The Compensation Board’s mission is to “determine a reasonable budget for the participation of the commonwealth toward the total cost of office operations for constitutional officers, and to assist those officers and their staff through automation, training and other means, to improve efficiencies and to enhance the level of services provided to the citizens of Virginia.”

What is the history on county police department discussions?

In 2008, Loudoun County Board of Supervisors Chairman Scott York recommended that county staff perform a study on law enforcement service and delivery.

The request was due to the county’s growth, “service delivery” and “efficiency,” according to county records. From 1990 to 2008, the county grew from 86,000 to more than 280,000 residents. (Loudoun's current population is approximately 406,000.) The sheriff’s office has grown to become the largest in the commonwealth.

Steve Simpson, then-county sheriff, described the conversation as a “kick in the teeth.” He opposed York’s recommendation.

The board at the time was concerned about costs of the studies, how two law enforcement agencies would collaborate, response times and accountability of the sheriff’s office.

“My question would be why are we trying to fix something that we know is not broken ... ,” Simpson said. "The only thing this really changes is the fact that I'm elected versus being appointed. That's the only change that comes out of this.”

York withdrew his motion after nearly 40 minutes of deliberation with his colleagues. He stated, “… at the end of the day, all I was trying to attempt here is that we have an independent group come in here and take a look at even the current model that we use, is it the most efficient way, are there suggestions that we could do to accomplish what we need to do? But that's OK, I withdraw my motion.”

In June 2012, the Loudoun County Government Reform Commission (LCGRC) was established to analyze whether reforms should be made to Loudoun County government, including the Loudoun County Sheriff’s Office.

After multiple meetings were held with Sheriff Chapman, LCSO staff members, and staff members of neighboring jurisdictions in both sheriff’s offices and police departments, the commission recommended against establishing a police department in Loudoun.

The opinion came after the group analyzed “funding mechanisms, personnel requirements, infrastructure costs and process changes.”

“The Government Reform Commission strongly recommends that the Loudoun County Board of Supervisors maintain the current structure of a Sheriff’s Office without adding a police department,” notes a 2012 memorandum from the commission.

Elsewhere in Virginia, at least two counties have voted on referendums to establish a police department.

Fifty-four percent of the 28,836 voters in Roanoke favored the idea to establish a police department on Nov. 7, 1989, according to a Roanoke spokeswoman.

Ten years later, York County voters decided to keep its sheriff’s office with 74 percent of the voters endorsing that decision, according to a county elections office official. The referendum received 5,259 no responses compared to 1,842 yeses.

What are people saying about this?

Virginia Sheriff’s Association Executive Director John Jones said Loudoun has a “top notch” agency and “great reputation” across the commonwealth. Jones said “nothing would be gained” if Loudoun transitioned to a police department.

“The creation of a police department will not serve the citizens of Loudoun County because they would lose their ability to choose that law enforcement executives,” Jones said. “So, all it would do is move the top law enforcement person from the elected official that responds directly to the people to a bureaucracy answer to the Board of Supervisors."

One of the cost benefits under the current system is that the county does not have to cover liability insurance, Jones said. The sheriff’s office is covered by a risk management policy.

“...this [is] nothing against police chiefs, but your sheriff answers directly to the people,” Jones said. “He does not answer to the Board of Supervisors and sometimes that is not appreciated by the Board of Supervisors. They want to control policy relating to public safety. The sheriff needs to be independently elected, autonomous so that he can respond to needs as they arise without influence from other politicians.”

Fraternal Order of Police of Virginia President John Ohrnberger did not wish to speak on the matter, saying only that “The Fraternal Order of Police of Virginia's practice is to stay out of local politics.”

What's next?

Randall said in the press conference she would bring the item forward early next year.

If the board were to move forward with a county police department, a referendum is required and must be approved by voters in the county and enacted by the General Assembly, according to Virginia Code 15.2-1702.

__________

Related: Randall expects new board to discuss county police department

Related: Loudoun sheriff calls police department proposal 'a matter of exercising power and control’

(47) comments

Bapears113787

I’d like to know why my comment is not put up when I tried twice and it was totally factual with links to Chairwoman Randall’s own words showing she is not being totally honest with her arguments of having a police force.

marv

I have the same problem - Most of the time It takes 5 hours to a day for my comments to be approved and sometimes never, but there are comments by a certain few that are "approved" within a few minuets.

qsberry

I served with the Loudoun Sheriff's Office for almost thirty years and from the time I started until now a Police Department has been the topic off and on. I for one was always an advocate for a PD mainly because Sheriff's Office is a political entity with the Sheriff being elected every four years. During my tenure I served under four Sheriff's and feared for my job every term because I was on the opposite all but once and my rank went up and down with each new Sheriff. The results of working under those conditions make you not want to make any large purchases for fear of losing your job or being demoted. You can have a stellar career but if you were a democrat under a republican Sheriff you were a threat and punished for your belief and affiliation with the opposite party. During my years at the Sheriff's Office I was subject to this kind of treatment and wished I had been on a:Police Department so I was covered under the Police Bill Of Rights. But now several years later, I have changed my mind. By instituting a Police Department what do we gain. A Police Department would be funded by the citizens with additional money coming from the state and the Sheriff's Office still has to be funded. The Sheriff still has Police power, He still has the Correction facility, unless the county was to make the jail a Regional jail being funded by several jurisdictions. He still has the Civil Enforcement and Court Room Security. The Sheriff still can patrol the county and answer calls unless the county was to limit his.funds in which they would. The only thing the county gains beside extra cost is control. There is no doubt this is what they are after. Like him or not you cannot dispute that the Loudoun County Sheriff's Office is one of the most progressive agencies in the U.S. It consists of highly trained and dedicated people and they have done an excellent job keeping up with growth. With the democrat's efforts to cater to lawlessness, I now see why we need the voters to decide who oversees law enforcement functions and not liberal politicians. Loudoun has one of the lowest crime rates in the country, lets keep it that way and support what we already have in place instead of wanting control to push the liberal's agenda.

workhardgetahead

Well Liberal Democrat and the law are a contradiction

Harvardmustang

100% correct, the idea of a county police force would not have been resurrected had Chapman lost. This is so transparent, a Democrat power move, that one with an IQ under 100 could figure this out.

MitchT

Thank you, qsberry, for your service and your thoughts. As a leader, I'm disappointed in the promote/demote because of politics... if your politics had nothing to do with your performance and support of the chain of command. I was left wondering--how did anyone even know your politics? If it's because they were demanding donations and you didn't (THAT'S a serious violation on their part), or they dug up records and saw you made donations to the other side (OK, but hardly reasonable or good leadership), that would be one thing. Or, (not saying this was you) there could have been a perception of not supporting the chain of command by being a "resister" (that isn't appropriate--you can disagree, make that known, but in the end you follow the decision of the authority or you resign if you want to complain about it). So I'm wondering what is your take on how these decisions are reached, how people's politics are determined?

qsberry

Mitch T. had asked how it was known what party affiliation I was. I was a member of the Democratic Party at the time and it was pretty known by everyone. I did not let it affect my job. However, I am no longer a member of any party. But thank you for your comments.

Waterfordresident

All the reasons people need to get out and vote the Democrats out. They want to control it all and bring all the failed policies from other counties and cities to Loudoun. People are too ignorant to comprehend this because they vote solely on social issues and not economic issues. If you do this...look in the mirror. You’re the problem. This is only the beginning until the Democrats have ruined everything they put their hands on. The LCSO is an amazing department with a superb staff from the field to the office staff and administers.

Iluvloudoun

Randall wants to appoint a Chief who would be onboard with Richmond’s plan to confiscate guns and take away our ability and right to defend ourselves. Why would anyone want to have our taxes Sky rocket with implementing a whole new police department when there’s nothing wrong with the department that we have? This would cost hundreds of millions of dollars to do this and our school funding would be lost to it just to push Randall’s Democrat agenda.

Iluvloudoun

This is Randall’s way of pushing her ultra-Socialist agenda so that Ice has no authority in Loudoun Co. If you want Illegals committing crimes to have sanctuary here, then continue to support acts like this! MS-13 will be safe here where the Socialist BOS have control by booting the Sheriff’s dept who have done a wonderful job keeping us safe when illegals commit crimes and Ice gets notified. Wake up Loudoun. If you like how Dems have driven the big cities into poverty and crime, just keep voting Democrat.

MitchT

People are so concerned about the Sheriff being able to fire people for political reasons, job security, etc. His ability to do that is a GOOD thing. We have examples all around us of "career" employees who are supposedly not political. They are practically impossible to fire or hold accountable, have better benefits and pensions than almost all of us. They feel perfectly secure in following their own agenda, rather than the chain of command.

How do we expect the leader of an organization to be accountable to us, if the people that work for him are not accountable to him? The whole civil service thing has been a complete failure, unless you love big, unaccountable government. A police force would be a very costly way to reduce accountability of law enforcement to the people. No, thanks.

LetFreedomRing

What a shameless and blatant power grab by Democrat Phyllis Randall. The LCSO and Sherriff Chapman are doing a phenomenal job. There’s absolutely no reason to change it... except for corrupt political motivations by the Democrat Phyllis Randall. Disgusting.

Lemmy Motorhead

There have been no controversial incidences that have occurred within recent memory involving the LCSO. Loudoun county is currently the safest jurisdiction in the nova/DC area. Why are there politicians searching for a solution to a problem that doesn't exist?

Randall needs to accept the fact that Sheriff Chapman doesn't see eye to eye with her politically; if Randall hates Chapman so much, she can support a different sheriff's candidate in a few years...

And fyi, Sheriff Chapman isn't Bufford T. Justice. For some reason when people hear "sheriff", they think of some tobacco chewing lawman accepting kickbacks from bootleggers...

ChickenChucker

Don't forget the Sheriff of Nottingham, very evil guy. And the Police Chief, Sir Guy, very sweet guy.

Marilynkeaton

I can not imagine the hike in taxes if we have to cover a Police Department. I see no reason to have both except the county would control the PD.

d

I can not imagine the hike in taxes if we have to cover a Police Department. I see no reason to have both except Phyllis Randall would control the PD.

Fixed it for you.

Joeespo01

Just what Loudoun needs a Progressive Democrat to bring our crime rate in line with Washington DC, Fairfax county and Chicago. These Democrats have destroyed so many US cities and now they are working on destroying county's Nationwide. Another reason too stop the gun confiscation the Leftist are planning.

marv

There is an old adage - "If it aint broke, dont fix it". I can personally attest to the quality of the Loudoun Sheriffs since Arthur Godfrey bought their communication system. There have been very few if any substantive complaints as to quality of service. Do not change what has worked for years just to placate a few.

Locojrt

We have local police forces, State police and a Sheriff's dept and Leesburg has THE worst drivers in the state. Red lights are optional if it's inconvenient, stop signs...null and voud. Sperd lumut down RT 7 avgs 65 to 75 and the cops jyat sit and watch. I sat next to a Sheriff's car and Leesburg cop while 7 people ran red light at 15 and Edwards Ferry. I looked at them and they both shrugged their shoulders! Holy crap people! Where is the accountability! Was it not convenient? When I actually see a car pulled over I want to stop and ask what they did to actually get pulled over!

DaPark

The pool of qualified sheriff candidates is dismal in Loudoun. Any schmuck off the street can run and potentially win. You had a guy that had no police experience and didn't plan on carrying a gun running for Sheriff. A police dept would open the chief job to a nationwide pool to find well qualified candidates. A dept this size needs a chief. Deputies would become county employees with job security. They don't have that now. Look at the lawsuits against Chapman and you can see the need for a chief.

Locojrt

Has nothing to do woth Dems vs Repubs, it is what's BEST for the people, the county AND the employees. As well as getting the best candidates.

Matthew

Lol, good try Randal. Use your real name next time you post

Chris McHale

Depart- Ho back and look at who support that "schmuck" with no LE experience and the thought of not protecting himself. When you realise it is the same people that would be appointing the police chief perhaps you'll reconsider your position.

loudoun fan

This should be the main issue/reason. An elected sheriff overseeing all law enforcement creates the possibility of some like Hannah getting elected - someone with no LEO experience ever. That would be a recipe for disaster.

RandomName2019

Can you point to the lawsuits? I know he's had some problems with firing some people in the past, but I haven't heard about anything else. Also, how does it track with lawsuits against Fairfax police department? It it a lot higher?

d

I disagree with you completely. An elected Sheriff is directly responsible to the voters of Loundoun County, whereas an unneeded Police Department would be responsible only to Phyllis Randall. I like our Sheriff's Department, and they are doing a great job.

LoCo Bob

Law Enforcement and Politics are a bad mix.

The Sheriff answers to where ever he can get the most votes.

And contrary to popular belief, a Police Department is more responsive than a Sheriff's Office. You are fool if you don't think a Sheriff weighs decisions on getting Re-Elected versus what is best for the County as a whole.

Time for a Police Department.

Loudounest

A reminder the LC sheriff budget is $88m/year and manages 800 employees. We need a good manager to run this operation not just a uniform and parade car. That manager should be the best one we can find even if it is from Iowa or Alaska. Just depending on electing a local political candidate limits the resumes for the job. It would seem voters have limited choices and besides are not qualified to evaluate the management skills required and are left to just pull the D or R lever on voting day! What a way to run a $88m business!

d

In my opion, I'm more qualified than Phyllis Randall.

ChickenChucker

Mr. Loudoun, this is what the School Board did when they conducted the hiring of the Superintendent for LCPS. How did that turn out? I have no problem with a new system, but I haven't seen one that solved any of the problems complained about, except maybe from the gentleman that suggested a Vigilante system. He is the smartest guy here.

ChickenChucker

Same for the BOS. It makes no difference as far as corruption or mismanagement, look at Chicago and other big city police departments. Vigilante justice, arbitrary and swift is the way to go. Just ask Adam Schiff and Jerry Nadler, so saith the Queen NANCY.

truckrider814

Right now the sheriff answers the to people of Loudoun. If Loudoun decides to go with a PD, the people lose any kind of say over law enforcement. With a sheriff if you don't like the job they are doing they're gone, and someone else is voted in. You literately have some control over law enforcement. A sheriff does come with some political bs. Seems like a small price to pay to let Loudoun people decide, and not have some puppet of the BOS appointed without question.

ForeverBlue

It seems politically self-serving for Chairwoman Randall to place changing the constitutional officer position of the sheriff to a county police chief as her top priority. It makes absolutely no sense and is without merit. Certainly Chairwoman Randall has far more pressing matters of importance that would better serve the county. History suggests that Chairwoman Randall is engaged in a power grab to reign in a sheriff for whom she has no control or authority. That authority is in the hands of the Loudoun County citizens and should remain as such. Chairwoman Randall, the Board members, as well as the County Administrator, know very well that the Loudoun Sheriff's office has made remarkable achievements during Chapman's time in office. Effective public safety benefits everyone-regardless of political affiliation. Perhaps Chairman Randall should review the numerous local, regional and national accolades received by the sheriff and his office that were awarded during Board hearings over the years from a variety of professional and community-based groups. The citizens of Loudoun have declared their trust in the sheriff. The voters have spoken by electing the sheriff for a third term but now Randall wants to suddenly and arbitrarily disenfranchise those voters. A Loudoun police chief would be held hostage to the political whims of the Board, the County Administrator or any other influential bureaucrat; all of whom lack the knowledge and experience to make critical law enforcement decisions or policy. Any rational, unbiased review of the Loudoun Sheriff's Office will reveal its many public safety program successes. The cliché, leave well enough alone, is more than appropriate in this instance. There's simply nothing broken and nothing for power-grabbing politicians to fix.

LoudounBornandRaised92

I'll be the first to admin I'm pretty progressive. I think a police force would be a terrible idea. I don't support this in the slightest. Do I think there should be a way to protect sheriff's who might not have the same political views as Sheriff Chapman? Absolutely. But, overall, having grown up in Loudoun and working here as an adult, I feel the LCSO has done a good job. Obviously there are negative things that happen from time to time; no organization is perfect. But I think the LCSO is well-respected within the community, and especially within LCPS. We have some awesome SROs that I have had the pleasure of working with throughout the years. A big no to the police force for me.

Loudounest

Loudoun BOS must act quickly and pass a "sanctuary resolution" protecting the Sheriff from being replaced by anyone more competent.

WesternSky

Loudoun County would find a way to screw this up -- raise our taxes by added costly additional micro management points -- and make it MORE political at the same time.

Representing the Mambo

It's time for a Police Department. There is almost no checks and balances with a constitutional officer like a sheriff, and if you are unfortunate enough to get some slick politician who is willing to say anything or make any side deal to get elected, the voters will have to wait years to get him out. In the mean time, Chapman runs the sheriff's office like it's his personal fiefdom and uses the office's social media platform to spread his propaganda and outright lies. He once asked the crime analysts for the latest numbers on heroin OD deaths to publish in an article with Barbara Comstock concerning the HOT Program that was implemented with much fanfare. When he saw that the OD numbers were up, he simply used the numbers from the last quarterly report. He outright refuses to release information lawfully requested through FOIA, and often deletes negative comments or blocks users on his official facebook account, despite the recent 4th Circuit Court opinion against such action. The constitution does not mean much to this "Constitutional Officer." Let us not forget his good friend and political advisor that was just sentenced to prison- Chapman surrounds himself with guys (and girls) like that. I don't think he would get far acting like this in a police department.

RandomName2019

What's not clear is if the creation of a police force would also mean that we would no longer retain our Treasurer and Commissioner of Revenue. Something that the last government reform commission advised that we continue in order to keep those who assess and tax us from also setting the tax rates... If I remember correctly they also moved some county functions for real estate at the same time.

loudoun fan

We'd still have a CoR and Treasurer. However, they'd have different titles and be appointed rather than elected.

RandomName2019

So, basically what you're saying is that we won't have a Treasurer or Commissioner. So the people who set the tax rates would also be in control of deciding how much something is worth? That seems like a bad idea.

d

Phyllis?

RandomName2019

So, basically what you're saying is that we won't have a Treasurer or Commissioner. So the people who set the tax rates would also be in control of deciding how much something is worth? That seems like a bad

LoudounPulse

The LCSO does a perfectly good job in Loudoun and we don't need a police force. This is just a political play by the Chairwoman to grab law enforcement power from the citizens, so she can appoint a police chief that only needs to answer to the Chairwoman.

This means when the Chairwoman tells the police chief to ignore illegals and don't hand them over to ICE, the Chief doesn't have to worry about voter outrage. It also means that community policing can be controlled so that certain voter blocks aren't upset when election time arrives.

Say NO to a police force.

SkoaldudeVA

100% accurate

Joeespo01

Nicely stated. Bravo.

loudoun fan

With a county police department, the authority to hire/fire the police chief would rest solely and completely with the county administrator. Sure, the BOS could fire the county administrator but that would require 5 votes and if done to just replace the police chief would be patently transparent and a political death wish.

d

Loudoun County voters can fire the Sheriff at the next election. Why would Loundoun County voters want to give up that power? Why would Loudoun County citizens want that power in the hands of one person (i.e., the County Administrator, who is appointed by the 9 Supervisors)? I don't want to give up that power. Moreover, with the performance of our Sheriff's Department, we don't need a Police Department.

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