Law Enforcement Leaders Share Upbeat Report on Public Safety

During the Loudoun County Crime Commission’s 10th annual state of law enforcement luncheon, representatives of the county’s agencies lauded their cooperative spirit and the community’s low crime rate. 

The Oct. 8 forum at the Belmont Country Club included leaders of the Sheriff’s Office and the police departments in Leesburg, Purcellville, and Middleburg. 

“It’s been a challenging couple of years for law enforcement. It has been challenging for everybody, law enforcement as well. It is not just with the pandemic but with the other things that are going on in society today,” Sheriff’s Office Lt. Col. Bob Miller said.

While serious crimes have been on the decline, law enforcement agencies have been expanding their community outreach, including efforts to improve response to cases involving domestic violence and mental health crises.

Middleburg Police Chief A.J. Panebianco, who serves as the president of the Virginia Association of Police Chiefs, said a lot of work in being done statewide to promote higher law enforcement and hiring standards, including changes needed to ensure that bad cops let go by one agency aren’t simply passed on to another.

He agreed that mental health response is a major concern.

Middleburg Police Chief A.J. Panebianco speaks during the Loudoun Crime Commission’s annual State of Law Enforcement event.

Loudoun Sheriff Mike Chapman “has set a very high bar in responding to mental health crisis in Loudoun County. It is not that way across Virginia. It’s often not the law enforcement agency’s fault. I blame the state,” Panebianco said. “Across the state, mental health is in a crisis. It is in a horrible crisis in some areas.”

The chief said the primary problem was the decision by Alison Lang, the state commissioner of the Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services, to close state mental hospitals because of low staffing. That leaves local law enforcement agencies to hold individuals needing temporary mental health holds for up to 72 hours, sometimes in handcuffs.

“I just think it is a travesty. We not serving at all if we’re doing that and that’s happening across the state,” Panebianco said, noting that the chief’s association is hoping for an Attorney General’s Officer opinion that would reverse that decision and is lobbying for hirer pay for mental health workers.

Purcellville Deputy Chief Dave Dailey also noted a desire to work more closely with mental health professionals, but said police should not be taken out of the response loop.

“I think we should partner together. I think we would all welcome that.  … but I think removing police and the sheriffs altogether is very dangerous, for the worker, for the people who are receiving services,” Daily said.

While representatives of all the jurisdictions highlighted declining crime stats, Dailey voiced frustration in combating the town’s top public safety challenge: drivers being unable to maneuver around the Main Street/Berlin Turnpike traffic circle.

“In Europe, people drive through traffic circles all the time. [But here] they haven’t figured out how to drive through traffic circles because our number one draw on resources is accidents at the traffic circle. We will continue to work on that,” he said.

The core repeating theme as the administrators spoke during the program was the strong cooperation among the agencies 

“I have never been prouder to be associated with law enforcement than I am being associated with law enforcement in Loudoun County,” Panebianco said. “Nobody does it quite like it is done up here.”

7 thoughts on “Law Enforcement Leaders Share Upbeat Report on Public Safety

  • 2021-10-20 at 4:14 pm

    This is a painful read.

    We’ve got children being sexually assaulted in schools. Women being murdered in domestic attacks. And property crime that is completely out of control.

    Traffic circles? C’mon. Commercial vehicles are running amok on the weekdays and drunks and joy riders terrorize the roads on the weekends.

    Oh, and how about spending Loudoun tax dollars at locally-owned businesses, instead of a ClubCorp (TX based) country club?

  • 2021-10-20 at 5:14 pm

    There have been three murders within 3 miles of my home in the last 5 years. That’s not a rosy picture if you ask me. I can’t keep track of the other violent crimes within 3 or 5 miles of my home in Loudoun County since I moved here.

  • 2021-10-20 at 6:09 pm

    ‘Tis nice that the police departments get along well & paint a rosy picture of public-safety in Loudoun. But if I had my druthers, I’d like to see Loudoun have a county-wide police department & a civilian review board. Too many questions swirl around the operation of the Loudoun County Sheriff’s Office. Where is the accountability? I hope the supervisors continue to advocate for a county-wide police department. Recent events show it’s long overdue.

    • 2021-10-21 at 10:02 am

      The accountability lies with the voters. Where it belongs.
      The LoCo BoS doesn’t need any more power or control over this county.

    • 2021-10-21 at 11:22 am

      Nonsense. Keep the power with The People when it comes to county LE. The Sheriff’s Office is too important to be left to Harrison Street.

  • 2021-10-22 at 10:35 am

    Citizens of Loudoun-PLEASE do your own research on the issue of changing the LCSO to a police department!

    To change would be a huge give-away and power grab to Chairwoman Randall and the BOS. That is Randall’s primary motive, to control a police chief who works at the political behest of the BOS. We, the people, currently have the power to decide on our public safety in Loudoun. Don’t give up that right- that privilege.

    Any objective review of the LCSO’s law enforcement and public safety programs will reveal a resounding success of the department in all categories. The LCSO has consistently been praised and certified at the highest level by independent professional accreditation groups. There have been no “recent events” as alluded to in posted comments involving the LCSO. In fact, there have been zero substantiated complaints of police intolerance or abuse; be they civil rights, mental health or police overreach of any form. And all this during an extremely difficult time in our country involving law enforcement interaction with the public.

    Review the statistics and the facts. The crime rate in Loudoun is down by nearly 14% over the last year when surrounding jurisdictions are up nearly 9%. This fact has given the LCSO a citizen satisfaction rating of about 90%. Where is the logic in changing to a police department? There is absolutely none! With the obvious success of the LCSO, I sincerely question Chairwoman Randall’s motives for change. Moreover, given the recognized and proven accomplishments of the LCSO, by seeking unnecessary change, it’s disturbing that Chair Randall and the BOS show such a lack of concern and interest for our safety in Loudoun County.

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