Loudoun Sheriff Michael L. Chapman used the Loudoun County Sheriff’s Office’s official channels to argue the Board of Supervisors “seeks to take over and politicize local law enforcement” with a proposal to start a county police department.
Using the same channels the department uses to communicate public safety messages, and offering as contact information the Sheriff’s Office’s Public Information Officer, Chapman called on Loudouners to call their county supervisors to speak about the proposal, and to sign up for a public input session on July 21, when supervisors are expected to discuss the proposal.
“The Loudoun County Sheriff’s Office is working for the citizens of our county and will continue to do its part to keep politics out of public safety,” a press release and Facebook post from the department reads.
“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 stated in the release. “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.”
County Chair Phyllis J. Randall (D-At Large) has said she will bring the police department proposal to the full board of July 21. If supported by a majority of supervisors, the county will ask the Circuit Court to place a voter referendum on the ballot. If voters then approve of a police department, it would begin in 2024, after Chapman’s current term is up.
If a county police department is created it would assume primary law enforcement duties, while the elected sheriff would retain control over the jail, court security and civil process. A new chief of police would be hired under the county administrator, akin to other heads of Loudoun public safety agencies like the fire-rescue chief.
If Loudoun decides to hand primary law enforcement duties to a police department, it will be the first Virginia county to do so since 1995. Loudoun is by far the largest county without a police department.
Chapman argued changing to a police department would be costly and not improve service levels. He has long argued against the idea, and has previously resisted oversight measures such as a civilian review board or publishing the Sheriff’s Office’s General Orders, the common practice of other law enforcement agencies in the county and region.
“The Sheriff’s Office facilitates transparency, dialog, trust, outreach, and education directly between citizens and our deputies,” Chapman stated. “There is no middleman, there are no politicians pulling the strings and injecting their personal views. This is the reason Loudoun has attained and maintained such a low crime rate and high citizen satisfaction.”
Chapman has not returned a request for comment on the proposal.