Supervisors, Sheriff Again Spar Over Elementary School Deputies

As they work on the county government’s next annual budget, supervisors have for a second time debated the merits of putting sheriff’s deputies in all 58 public elementary schools in Loudoun.

The idea was first voiced in a joint press release between Sheriff Michael Chapman and John Whitbeck, the candidate seeking to unseat County Chairwoman Phyllis J. Randall (D-At Large). Chapman did not actually include the idea in his budget request to county supervisors, answering questions before the meeting that “this item will be for a future Board of Supervisors and it is not relevant to this year’s budget request.”

During a budget work session March 4, Randall pushed Chapman to request the funding and offered to make a motion on the board to support it, pointing out the current Board of Supervisors has never declined to provide funding for a school resource officer.

As recently as March 8, Chapman’s office called the proposal “speculative,” and said the office had not yet coordinated with the school board or county administration, and that the idea “needs to be implemented in a responsible, incremental, and methodical fashion.”

And during a work session Monday night that push continued.

“If we had been asked in the past for school resource officers in the elementary schools, we would have approved them, because you have never brought a request for an SRO that we did not say yes to,” Randall said. She requested adding more than $2 million to the county budget to start the program with 13 school resource officers and one program supervisor.

Other supervisors were skeptical of the election-year sparring. Vice Chairman Ralph Buona (R-Ashburn) called the proposal “a false sense of security,” and suggested offsetting that cost by taking it out of the proposed school budget appropriation.

“Children’s safety is incredibly important, and this only benefits our children and only benefits our schools,” he said. “However, if there is any price tag associated with it, I’m going to offset it somewhere else.”

Supervisor Matthew F. Letourneau (R-Dulles) was likewise skeptical.

“I just don’t see the SROs at the elementary schools being very busy,” Letourneau said. He and Buona pointed out the School Board has not yet been consulted—or indeed had a meeting since the last budget work session a week before. Buona suggested a more systematic approach, starting with the Joint School Board/Board of Supervisors Committee, which meets again in May.

“Why can’t we do this at a later meeting and decide after the School Board’s had a chance to look at it?” asked Supervisor Geary M. Higgins (R-Catoctin). He moved to table the discussion until later, which supervisors supported 4-3-2, with Supervisor Suzanne M. Volpe (R-Algonkian) absent and Ron A. Meyer Jr. (R-Broad Run) having left.

So far, supervisors are still on track for a real estate tax rate of $1.045 per $100 of assessed value, a 4-cent tax rate cut from the current rate of $1.085.

rgreene@loudounnow.com

5 thoughts on “Supervisors, Sheriff Again Spar Over Elementary School Deputies

  • 2019-03-12 at 4:51 pm
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    $211,000.00 per officer no wonder you are being replaced as Chairman.

  • 2019-03-12 at 4:58 pm
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    Surrounding this whole thing is that it is an election year, and Sheriff Chapman got caught playing political games with our children’s safety at Loudoun County elementary schools, in order to get a candidate, Mr. Whitbeck, some publicity. The problem was, Sheriff Chapman, it appears, for the past four budgets for the County, never once asked for SROs in the elementary schools, and Mr. Whitbeck, as citizen, never once came before the Board of Supervisors and advocated for that, until election year. It is shameful that Sheriff Chapman and Mr. Whitbeck would play political games for an election at the expense of children. IF it was necessary that Sheriff Chapman have SROs in the elementary schools, and he did nothing about that, he failed in his job as a competent sheriff. And Mr. Whitbeck should be ashamed of himself for using children as pawns in his effort to get elected.

  • 2019-03-12 at 7:19 pm
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    Well said, Laugh. Again, Chapman embarrassed himself in front of the County Board of Supervisors. Last time he was schooled on the 911 dispatch issue and this time he’s busted for pulling this cheap and clumsy political stunt. He gets worse and worse. I guess now that his campaign manager is taking a vacation at Club Fed, he has to rely on his own poor judgment.

  • 2019-03-13 at 7:32 am
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    Congrats to the editor for covering this topic. As a former board member of the Loudoun County Crime Commission I spent lots of time discussing school safety with Mike Chapman. I NEVER saw either John or Phyllis EVER at any of the programs over many years, however, I don’t think bashing John is appropriate as he is initiating an effort that is long overdue. I rarely saw ANY Supervisors and never saw any other school board members attend either. Does anyone really think Loudoun and its children are not targets for terrorism, abductions etc. given the makeup of our citizen population? It was only after the bomb scare at Broad Run High School and my discovery that the LCPS camera system did not cover all the spaces at our schools (nor were there panic buttons at all schools) was I able to start the Health, Safety and Wellness Committee as part of the regular school board activities. We still need wireless panic button capability. We still need the security team to view cameras live and not retroactively when there is a need to document something. We need whomever is the next Sheriff to better organize the routs of deputies during the day to include at least driving near our schools (all our schools) so the response time to an emergency is significantly reduced. Maybe if the Board of Supervisors insisted on properly assessing HHMI, The Greenway and the hospitals correctly we could better afford a safer community, fixing severe traffic problems and even enhancing how we educate our children. November is coming!

  • 2019-03-13 at 3:47 pm
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    Geary Higgins should be absolutely ashamed of himself for making an asinine comment like, “Why do we have to do this tonight?” The reason, Mr. Higgins, is because the safety of our children and 10,000+ Loudoun County Public School (LCPS) employees are at stake. Here we have two Board Supervisors (Geary Higgins & Ron Meyer) running for State Senate and one (Higgins) decides that this isn’t important enough to address immediately and the other (Meyer) simply chooses not to show up at all to a scheduled Board meeting! Neither Senate candidates have children who attend LCPS so apparently without a personal or financially interest at stake they simply don’t care. What both of them fail to recognize is that nearly 80,000 students are enrolled in LCPS and that directly translates to a lot of parents who are voters and actually do have a vested interest in the safety of our children. So far Mike Buscher is the only candidate that has attempted to make this a priority issue and he wasn’t even mentioned in the article. It’s clear to us that neither Higgins nor Meyer deserve the opportunity to represent us in Richmond!

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