Editor: Following the conversations about the proposed study evaluating a county police department, I am struck by one line of thought that is simply not valid. Opponents to the idea of a police department claim that, unlike a sheriff office, would be subject to politics. That the sheriff is answerable directly to the public and a police department would not.
In my opinion, this argument shows an extreme naivete to how the world actually works.The sheriff starts with the local political committee’s nomination process.Wither it be in the back room by a subcommittee or a primary where in order to vote citizens must promise to support every candidate put forward by that party.
A police chief is answerable to nine elected supervisors.With the exception of the at-large supervisor, all have smaller constancies that represent more directly the different parts of the county.Who does the sheriff answer to?The political committee’s that nominate them by a process that excludes the vast majority of the citizens of the county.A selection of a police chief, however, is done via a nationwide search to select the most qualified candidate.It is an open and transparent process.There is a reason we do not elect the superintendent of schools.
In the last election, the two-term incumbent raised over $160,000 in campaign finance to defeat a candidate who had no management or law enforcement experience. The incumbent won, but with only 55 percent of the vote.The political challenger with no experience and virtually no campaign received over 50,000 votes.
On capabilities and experience, I believe that the current sheriff should have received 99 percent of the vote not 55 percent.If this were a search committee, his opponent would not have even been considered, but as a political process he almost became sheriff.
The conclusion is obvious, when left to a political process to select and fund candidates the best candidate does not always win.
This is not intended to demean the current incumbent sheriff.In fact, I believe him to be highly qualified with the ability to advance to many law enforcements positions both within and outside the commonwealth, but with political candidates will not always ensure we have competent candidates to choose from or a one who believes in the rule of law.
John Bischoff, Leesburg