Loudoun Co. supervisor: Sheriff’s office needs more accountability

Protests and demonstrations happening across the U.S. following the death of George Floyd in Minnesota are leading to a renewed push for more police accountability measures at local and national levels — including Virginia’s Loudoun County.

In Loudoun, the sheriff’s office faces accountability every four years, when voters choose who their next sheriff is going to be.

And at least one supervisor said that process may be outdated.

In a Loudoun County Board of Supervisors meeting on Tuesday, Supervisor Juli Briskman said change needs to happen around the county.

She argued that it was time for a confederate memorial to come down from in front of the Loudoun County courthouse, and that more accountability is also needed from the sheriff’s office.

“You could claim that excessive force by police officers are the result of a few bad apples,” said Briskman.

“But some jobs, such as the one where your mission is to protect and serve, simply cannot have bad apples.”

Briskman, a Democrat who represents the Algonkian District in Loudoun County, said she regretted not saying more about Black Lives Matter when she appeared at a rally in Leesburg on Sunday.

“This week, our board has received many emails asking about body cameras for deputies and other accountability measures for our sheriff’s department,” Briskman said, “as they understandably believe that it is incumbent on us as a governing body to make sure our law enforcement is accountable.”

However, with the top law enforcement position in Loudoun County being an elected one, Briskman said the board provides no oversight function at all.

“We don’t have the authority to ask for records, review processes such as hiring/firing or to even suggest training modules,” said Briskman.

“In my opinion, this is a questionable set up, especially for a county our size, and we need to start thinking about a solution.”

The day after Briskman made those comments to the board, Loudoun County Sheriff Mike Chapman released a statement that said, “Every citizen has a voice in Loudoun County.”

Chapman also touted his support for a statement calling for the police officers in Minnesota involved with George Floyd’s death to be held accountable, before highlighting his efforts to build trust with community members over his eight years in office.

Chapman argued that being an elected leader is a good thing, since “there is no middleman” between law enforcement and the people.

“The system greatly facilitates dialogue, trust, outreach and education between citizens and the sheriff,” said Chapman.

Chapman cited statistics showing high approval levels among county residents and noted the sheriff’s office is “considered a premier agency in de-escalation training, utilizing technology for the safety of our residents and deputies and recognized as a model agency in the Commonwealth of Virginia.”

The sheriff also vowed that every physical encounter, “even if slight,” is investigated whether it spawns a complaint or not.

Chapman said in his nine years in office, there have been only two incidents of excessive force.

In one case, the deputy involved was fired. In the other, the deputy quit before their employment could be terminated.

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