Loudoun County Sheriff Mike Chapman is pushing back against a proposal that would transfer many of the office’s law enforcement powers to a new police department, calling it a “rush to judgment” that overlooks costs.
The Loudoun County Board of Supervisors is considering a ballot referendum that would ask voters whether the county should establish a county police force and strip the county sheriff’s office of law enforcement responsibilities outside of court services and civil proceedings.
Board of Supervisors Chair Phyllis Randall, a Democrat, has backed the shift as a measure to make for civilian oversight of law enforcement and bolster accountability. But the Sheriff’s Office has been vocal in its opposition, with Chapman seeing the move as a power grab that would introduce partisan politics into policing.
“It is apparent that Chair Randall and her allies are embracing the ‘ready, fire, aim’ approach to local law enforcement and want the public to ignore the policy implications as well as the hard costs and risks of turning law enforcement over to an un-elected chief completely beholden to the BOS and county staff,” Chapman said in a news release Tuesday.
In pushing back against the county board, Chapman, a Republican, released additional figures Wednesday from an internal study he says demonstrates how reshaping county law enforcement would be a financial burden to county residents.
The assessment of the office’s operations compares current costs to what it believes may occur if responsibilities were rolled over into a police department. It puts the initial cost of the transformation over $20 million, with millions more incurred through the acquisition of new technical equipment, a new headquarters and personnel.
Randall cast doubt on prospective cost figures coming from the sheriff’s office after Chapman first mentioned the internal study earlier this month, expressing concern that the sheriff “might cite any number he wants to cite.”
The board will take up the proposal when it next meets on July 21. If approved, voters could have the final say in the November general election. It would not take effect until 2024 at the end of Chapman’s current term as sheriff.
Of Virginia’s six most-populous counties, Loudoun, with about 413,000 residents, is the only one without a police department. Arlington, Fairfax and Prince William counties have police departments and sheriff’s departments.