Police Cooperation Panel Finds Little Room for Improvement

Good news, citizens: The Loudoun County Sheriff’s Office and the Leesburg Police Department are already cooperating pretty well, according to their top officers.

The first meeting of the joint Leesburg/Loudoun police committee was held Wednesday, bringing together Loudoun County supervisor and former Leesburg mayor Kristen C. Umstattd (D-Leesburg), supervisor and federal law enforcement officer Tony R. Buffington (R-Blue Ridge), Leesburg town council members Katie Sheldon Hammler and Thomas Dunn II, as well as top county and town law enforcement officers.

Interim Leesburg Police Chief Vanessa Grigsby. (Renss Greene/Loudoun Now)
Interim Leesburg Police Chief Vanessa Grigsby. (Renss Greene/Loudoun Now)

The committee was formed to find efficiencies between the two law enforcement departments, and the Leesburg council sent a list of nine things they’d like the sheriff’s office to do for Leesburg. But Loudoun Sheriff Michael Chapman said several of those things, his department already does.

“I can tell you, I’ve been here now four-plus years as sheriff, and the relationship that we’ve had with the Leesburg police has been outstanding,” Chapman said. “In the entire time that I’ve been here, we haven’t had one single complaint or concern either way.”

Leesburg interim police Chief Vanessa Grigsby agreed. Both pointed to what Chapman called the “completely seamless service back and forth with both jurisdictions” during the investigation and arrest around the murder of Christina Fisher last week. In that case, Fisher said, the sheriff’s office provided crime scene search because Leesburg’s crime scene investigator recently resigned, and sheriff’s deputies arrested the suspect at his home in Middleburg within an hour.

Supervisors Tony R. Buffington (R-Blue Ridge), Kristen C. Umstattd (D-Leesburg) and town council members Katie Hammler and Tom Dunn. (Renss Greene/Loudoun Now)
Supervisors Tony R. Buffington (R-Blue Ridge), Kristen C. Umstattd (D-Leesburg) and town council members Katie Hammler and Tom Dunn. (Renss Greene/Loudoun Now)

Still, the two departments will further explore a few extra ways to cooperate. The two departments are looking at more easily integrating their records management systems as the sheriff’s office works toward upgrading its computer-aided dispatch system.

Chapman offered some of the space in Loudoun facilities to Leesburg police on a temporary basis while the police department looks for more office space, and Leesburg police will be able to train at the county’s planned new shooting range.

Other ideas came with caveats: Although the sheriff’s office is open to sharing space with Leesburg dispatchers, County Administrator Tim Hemstreet cautioned that the county is considering consolidating all county emergency communications and dispatch into one program in the Department of Fire, Rescue and Emergency Management.

“If we go in that direction, probably at that point what we would say to the town is, if you want to do that, we would just be handling your law enforcement dispatching through this standalone department, and then you would provide a watch officer,” Hemstreet said.

Loudoun Sheriff Mike Chapman. (Renss Greene/Loudoun Now)
Loudoun Sheriff Mike Chapman. (Renss Greene/Loudoun Now)

Another town request, that the county fully fund Leesburg school resource officers, has already prompted concerns from county supervisors.

“If the county is going to be responsible for 100 percent of the cost, then we’re going to put sheriff’s deputies into the schools,” as opposed to Leesburg police officers. Hemstreet said, echoing the sentiment of the Board of Supervisors. “So what the town needs to decide is whether or not it wants to continue the partnership that’s here or not.”

Currently, Loudoun funds 70 percent of the cost of Leesburg school resource officers, who are currently Leesburg police officers. County staff has previously warned that switching to Loudoun deputies could also mean a loss of nearly $600,000 in gas tax funding for the town, which would be redirected to pay for the new Loudoun school resource officers.

The joint committee made tentative plans to meet again in two months.

rgreene@loudounnow.com
@RenssGreene