Study examines whether Loudoun Co. should convert its sheriff’s office into a police department

A new study addressed what Loudoun County, Virginia, could expect if it were to convert its sheriff’s office into a police department.

The study carried out by the International Association of Chiefs of Police focused on the costs and service changes that would come if the sheriff’s office, which is separate of Loudoun County’s Board of Supervisors, would be converted into a police department, which would come under the control of the Board of Supervisors.

The study was an initiative from the Board back in July 2020 that sought to review the outcomes of replacing the county’s sheriff.

The study detailed the Loudoun County Sheriff’s Office competence, including how it has the lowest violent crime rates in relation to other Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments members, but how it could improve in areas such as adding a mental health facility to its jail site and establish a Public Safety Committee for citizen participation in justice-related issues.

Such a conversion would cost anywhere from $213 to $307 million over the course of 10 years, according to the study.

Loudoun County Sheriff’s Office highlighted in a release that study cited their “excellence in performance,” how the conversion would risk a possible increase in crime and will remove the voters ability to hold their law enforcement officials accountable at the ballot box, as the primary reasons for maintaining the office.

“There are serious potential and unnecessary risks associated with conversion; on the other hand, no risk has been identified for continuing with the current structure and system for the delivery of policing services in the county,” per the study.

Other points that the sheriff’s office highlighted from the study are:

  • There is a potential for gaps in services.
  • The police chief would be under the complete control of the Board of Supervisors.
  • The staffing impact would include the need for 500 new personnel, and the duplication of certain public safety efforts.
  • The liability for lawsuits would be unlimited for a police department as compared with the $1.5 million cap for the sheriff’s office.

A previous effort to review the possibility of converting the sheriff’s office into a police department was done in 2012, and produced similar results.

You can read the full study here. The study will be presented to the Board of Supervisors at its meeting on Tuesday.

Editor’s Note: The story originally suggested that the IACP suggested a conversion wasn’t necessary. The IACP’s study did not make a recommendation about what the Board of Supervisors should do regarding keeping the sheriff’s office.

Matthew Delaney

Matt Delaney is a digital web writer/editor who joined WTOP in 2020.

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