FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Loudoun County, VA (July 11, 2020) – The Loudoun County Board of Supervisors announced they will vote July 21, 2020 on a hastily put together proposal to create a countywide police department and replace the law enforcement functions of the Loudoun County Sheriff’s Office (LCSO) along with the direct accountability of the Sheriff to the voters of Loudoun County.
This is about you, your safety, and your constitutional right to choose your chief law enforcement officer. This initiative seeks to take away your authority as a citizen in Loudoun County to select your top law enforcement official and places it solely in the hands of an elected Board of Supervisors, none of which currently have any local law enforcement experience.
The estimated cost of this change is more than $20 million and it would come at a time when Loudoun County government expects to experience up to a $100 million budget shortfall in this fiscal year alone due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and when LCSO is playing an essential role in helping the county manage its way through this crisis.
“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,” said Sheriff Chapman. “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,” he added.
“The proposal also comes without any evidence to support its merits, nor with any organized public input or a comprehensive study that would necessarily include input from LCSO and other stakeholders,” Chapman continued.
The Board item scheduled for a vote on July 21 intentionally avoids consideration of other options or a coherent process for considering such a change, limiting its focus to giving the Board of Supervisors and county staff complete authority over law enforcement should the voters of Loudoun County approve the referendum.
Some options include conducting a thorough comparative study in coordination with the LCSO, establishing a change to Loudoun County’s form of government, or seeking state legislation to require that Loudoun’s Constitutional Officers be non-partisan, removing political affiliation from the selection process for the Sheriff, Clerk of the Circuit Court, Commissioner of the Revenue, Commonwealth’s Attorney and Treasurer.
Previous studies conducted in Loudoun have recommended against creating a county-wide police department to replace the functions of the Sheriff’s Office, in part due to the complexity and cost and the inability to demonstrate that this would provide better service or oversight.
A 2020 LCSO internal study of this matter reinforces these findings, showing that the cost to taxpayers would exceed $20 million and that the change would put the longstanding success of LCSO as one of the nation’s most highly-regarded, effective, professional and well-trained local law enforcement agencies at risk.
The study will be released next week to be followed by an even more comprehensive assessment done in conjunction with the Virginia Sheriffs’ Institute and the L. Douglas Wilder School of Government and Public Affairs. The internal study, with information obtained from previous independent studies, finds that the Sheriff’s Office provides better accountability, stability, and responsiveness to the community than a police department would and that the creation of a county-wide police department would not benefit the citizens of Loudoun County.
Implications already identified by LCSO as reasons not to turn over law enforcement to a politically-directed police department include the following:
- Significantly reduce Virginia State Police presence and assistance in Loudoun County.
- Require an additional $10 million in county funds for new hires and replacement of vehicles and uniforms.
- Estimated loss of $1.9 million annually in state funding.
- Projected expense of at least $8 million for additional office space.
- Require increase of county self-insurance funds currently covered and paid for by the Commonwealth of Virginia.
- All liability would be assumed by Loudoun County with no limit on lawsuits, which are now limited by state law to $1.5 million.
Would not enhance the professional expertise or the level of service already provided, as LCSO deputies are already trained with area police officers at the Northern Virginia Criminal Justice Training Academy and are among its most accomplished graduates.
Would not enhance response times or any other metric of performance.
The LCSO is considered one of the nation’s premier local law enforcement agencies and has a nearly 90% public approval rating according to a recent Loudoun County Government-initiated citizen survey. Loudoun also experienced a 32% drop in serious crime since Sheriff Chapman began his first term in 2012, according to the Metropolitan Council of Governments Report on Crime and Control, and LCSO continues to be the most effective and innovative law enforcement agency in Virginia and the Baltimore/Washington area when it comes to training, professionalism, crisis intervention and de-escalation, and keeping communities safe.
The LCSO has been recognized locally, statewide, and nationally as a model agency:
LCSO personnel are among the most professional, educated, and accomplished in the nation. In the past several years alone, three deputies from the LCSO have been named Virginia Deputy of the Year by the Virginia Sheriffs’ Association, an LCSO Deputy in 2014 received the Virginia Crisis Intervention Team Deputy of the Year, and LCSO maintains the lowest vacancy rate for sworn personnel in its history.
“The Sheriff’s Office facilitates transparency, dialog, trust, outreach, and education directly between citizens and our deputies,” said Chapman. “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 added.
Additionally, our oversight is fair and consistent with all disciplinary measures vetted outside of LCSO by the Loudoun County Government Human Resources Department and the County Attorney’s Office.
Residents are urged to contact their Supervisor and the Chair to voice their opinion prior to July 21 and to participate in the public input session by calling 703-777-0200 to sign up in advance.
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.