Loudoun Supervisors Seek Minimum Qualifications for Virginia Sheriffs

Following a study into the potential costs, risks and benefits of starting up a countywide police department, Loudoun supervisors voted near-unanimously to instead look into what the minimum qualifications to run for sheriff should be in Virginia.

Supervisors on both sides of the debate around law enforcement in Loudoun agreed on concerns that the qualifications to run for sheriff are the same as any other Virginia elected office: that the person running have been a resident for at least a year and qualified to vote—or in other words, 18 years old, a citizen, and not a felon.

County Chair Phyllis J. Randall (D-At Large), who previously championed the renewed push to look into a county police department, moved to have county staff work with the firm that conducted the police department study, the International Association of Chiefs of Police, to propose develop minimum qualifications to run for sheriff in Virginia. That is with an eye toward later asking the General Assembly to put those requirements into law—a state constitutional amendment.

“In any election you can have a wave year where you have a wave of people come in and vote for a person because of a letter behind their name. In any election you can have a moment where neither person is really appropriate to be the sheriff,” Randall said.

“That is an important job, a serious job, and there needs to be some serious qualifications at a minimum,” said Supervisor Tony R. Buffington (R-Blue Ridge). “And so I was shocked, actually, today to learn that the qualifications apparently are that you have to be 18, which if you go to the Sheriff’s Office website and look at employment opportunities the minimum qualification is you have to be 21.”

Supervisor Matthew F. Letourneau (R-Dulles) said it’s a discussion at least worth having.

“Politicians run for office, and any politician can run for the office of sheriff, and if they’re good, they run a good campaign, they can win,” he said.

Only Supervisor Kristen C. Umstattd (D-Leesburg) voted against.

“I don’t know what we envision those qualifications would be. I also tend to agree … that this is not going to pass the General Assembly,” Umstattd said.

Supervisors voted to support that measure 8-1.

Competing Stories on Deputy Morale

While there was no disagreement on the crime rate or professionalism of law enforcement in Loudoun, supervisors heard—and offered—competing narratives on morale among sheriff’s deputies.

A study by the International Association of Chiefs of Police found Loudoun’s deputies generally have high morale, but acknowledged their survey response had been limited. Some supervisors also said they have heard mostly good things about working for the Sheriff’s Office.

“When I run into them on the streets and at the gas stations and stuff, many of them have no clue who I am. And I’ll ask them, hey, how are things at the sheriff’s department?” Buffington said. “And 99% of the time it’s something positive.”

But some people, including former sheriff’s deputies, recalled a toxic work environment and fears of political retaliation against deputies. Chapman has faced lawsuits and complaints before for political retaliation, and in court defended his legal authority to fire deputies for political reasons. And some supervisors said they have heard that before.

“I have had sheriff’s deputies approach me in huge numbers—at the mall, at Loudoun United games, at the gas station, at parades, on the walking trail, at church—I have had four meetings in Reston and one in Alexandria with sheriff’s deputies. It’s not one or two here and there. It’s fairly continuous that sheriff’s deputies have approached me … the term I hear most often is, ‘it’s toxic,’” Randall said.

Randall and others also rebuked Chapman for his use of official government information channels for political purposes. Most recently, Chapman sent a press release through Alert Loudoun and other channels urging supporters to email the Board of Supervisors in opposition to a police department.

“I haven’t responded to you on social media. The reason I’ve not responded to you and social media is because I’m not in middle school, and I’m going to have a social media fight with the sheriff. I’m just not doing it. You can attack me if you want to, but your attacking me is about—your disrespecting me is about what a kind of person you’re choosing to be. I’m never going to lower myself to that place,” Randall said.

And supervisors also debated the accountability for elected sheriffs. Compared to an elected sheriff, a police chief would be hired by the county administrator.

“The question is, who should the chief law enforcement be accountable to? Is it to the people, or is it to the board and the county administrator? I have a tendency to believe that going directly to the people is probably generally the safest route when you want excellent law enforcement services,” Supervisor Caleb Kershner (R-Catoctin) said.

Supervisor Michael R. Turner (D-Ashburn) said between elections, there is little public oversight for sheriffs compared to county supervisors.

“Once that person is elected, he or she is all-powerful. They don’t have to be transparent. They are not accountable. They don’t have to justify how they design or run their department. They don’t have to perform, they don’t have to be competent,” Turner said.

Supervisor Sylvia R. Glass (D-Broad Run) said she was concerned that there is not any work to further explore changing law enforcement in Loudoun.

“I think any system that allows a chief law enforcement officer to unilaterally fire deputies and singlehandedly control all aspects of policing with no oversight should have some amount of discussion,” she said.

26 thoughts on “Loudoun Supervisors Seek Minimum Qualifications for Virginia Sheriffs

  • 2022-04-06 at 11:29 am
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    At times, Supervisor Umstattd (D), seems to be the only member of the BoS with a functioning brain.

    STOP WASTING OUR MONEY!

  • 2022-04-06 at 11:39 am
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    If any good came out of last night’s discussion, it’s that Sheriff Chapman will cooperate with the formation of a Civilian Oversight Board. I’m confident Supervisor Saines will hold him to that. The Report itself was full of doom-and-gloom. Did any people of color work on it? (If so, they didn’t speak last night.) Still, it would be too costly to transition to a county police department. For now, we’re stuck with Sheriff Chapman. I do hope he’ll consider hiring & promoting more women & minorities. It’s shocking that only seven (7) women serve in supervisory roles under Sheriff Chapman. And his LGBTQ+ workers are largely invisible, if they exist. Clearly, members of that community could use an LCSO support group. Happy Ramadan Loudoun!

    • 2022-04-06 at 4:12 pm
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      Law enforcement has far greater concerns than equity within its offices…you know…preventing/solving crime in the county. Only the most qualified and experiences police officers should be promoted regardless of race, gender,…pronoun, etc. The voters who continue to support the LCSO and Sheriff Chapman want only to feel safe in the county. I don’t need them worried about anything else quite frankly.

    • 2022-04-07 at 4:32 pm
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      Women, minorities, and LGBTQ. Its about qualifications, not quotas. The word minority means fewer in number, not a specific race or LGBTQ preference.

  • 2022-04-06 at 12:34 pm
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    “In any election you can have a wave year where you have a wave of people come in and vote for a person because of a letter behind their name. In any election you can have a moment where neither person is really appropriate to be the sheriff,” Randall said.”

    Lack of self awareness aside, Phyllis has zero say in who is ‘appropriate’ for the people’s choice as to who to vote for. This is an indication of someone who believes they are better than anyone else around them. Her hubris is incredible.

    • 2022-04-19 at 9:43 am
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      Look at the last person who ran against Sheriff Chapman. A defense contractor who is in the Virginia National Guard but had absolutely zero law enforcement experience or education. His resume actually made him more of a viable Congressional candidate than a sheriff. If you dig deep into his campaign, you’ll see exactly why the young man ran for Sheriff despite having zero qualifications.
      Loudoun County has the largest Sheriff’s jurisdiction in the Commonwealth and our Sheriff must have extensive experience and training in order to execute their duties. Our BoS must submit a change document to the State for approval so the BoS can hike up those qualifications to ensure our Sheriff knows what he/she are doing. Candidly, given the population and size of LoCo, our Sheriff needs at least 15-20 years of experience, be a graduate of an approved state law enforcement academy, have training with the FBI, and a bachelors degree, preferably in a relevant field. The Sheriff must have budget experience so they can coordinate effectively with the BoS on how much funding is needed to keep the citizens safe and to increase training for the Deputies. The last thing we need is someone with no law enforcement experience running for Sheriff and getting elected solely because of their party affiliation. Should that happen, there could be an exodus of people leaving the county because experience counts more than good intentions when it comes to law enforcement.

  • 2022-04-06 at 12:51 pm
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    I was a Loudoun supervisor (2012-2015), where we studied the Police department issue and rejected it — and the main obstacle, as the IAPD report noted, is the structure of Loudoun’s government, where the executive and legislative powers rest with the Board of Supervisors. And, this report, written by Govt. Reform Commission members Barbara Munsey and Tanya Matthews, did not cost $500,000 like the IPAD report did. Because Loudoun doesn’t have a County Executive form of govt;. like Fairfax and Prince William, which do have police depts and the elected sheriff just runs the jail and courts, it raises the prospects that the Board of Supervisors, not the County Administrator (Tim Hemstreet), could appoint the sheriff. The Board in counties like Loudoun has that authority –just as a previous board appointed the tax assessor, until our Board put it as a civil servant under the Commisisoner of the Revenue. This means Loudoun would need to get a County Exec and appointed Treasurer and Commissh of the Revenue for the police chief to ENSURE the sheriff is a civil servant, hired by the Executive and NOT under the control of the politically elected BOS. This is quite complicated for voters to understand, should this go to referendum. My political sense of this resolution passed indicates the Board’s Democrat majority (many of whom would like a PD and wrest control of law enforcement from Republican Mike Chapman) wants to build a case for 2023 to get rid of him and devise standards for a police chief, should the voters approve the change via referendum. And, given how Loudoun has trended Blue, perhaps Randall & Co. feel they can use this continued study to sway people that Mike Chapman is not the right guy to be sheriff. The narrowing margins by which he and the other GOP constitutional officers won their races in 2015 and 2019 is an indicator of this — and the voters elected a Democrat Commonwealth’s attorney in 2019 for the first time in ages. Frankly, if Randall & Co put this on the ballot for a vote in the fall (required by state law to move to a PD), my guess is it would pass, as it seems to me most voters in Loudoun today are not independent thinkers, but lemmings who vote Democrat without really evaluating candidates. So, if the Democratic Committee endorses a PD, a PD it shall be. It would be nice if the board agrees to let Tim Hemstreet pick the police chief, but again, under this structure of government, a future BOS can take that away and appoint a PD who won’t enforce the law. A referendum, however, could become a vote on Randall and Chapman, since both have excellent county-wide name recognition. so, that’s a risk for fall 2022 which looks like a GOP year. From my standpoint, the cost of going to a PD $352 million over 10 years is enough to take this off the table completely — but again, Loudoun voters no longer care about their pocketbooks and limiting government, so it would seem. The budget passed yesterday proves that.

    • 2022-04-07 at 8:52 am
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      Barbara Munsey? Really? You actually gave public, tax-funded dollars to Barbara Munsey to write a report? Yet another reason you’re a former supervisor, Ken.

      • 2022-04-07 at 5:30 pm
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        “factsnotideology”, to live up to your name, you should perhaps look up and confirm that the Loudoun County Government Reform Commission was a volunteer body.
        The only tax dollars spent were on staff to support the work of the (countywide) commission.
        So, no, no one paid me with your money to participate.
        Ken implies that in his post, but as his post is all over the place, I can see it being hard for you to sort out in your eagerness to strike, lol.
        What he (and many) miss in this, as noted now by not only the former LCGRC report but the recent report on which we are all commenting, different forms of county government (and there are many more than the one alternative he mentions) have STATUTORY rights and duties attached to offices like county manager, county executive, and so on, which would continue to provide the separation of powers currently provided to our constitutional officers under our Traditional Form.
        Statutory powers attached to the post protect both the office holder and the public from overt politicization that could be evidenced in influencing an appointee of a Board in which rests all power, or an at-will hire of same.
        It often seems to be the case that when the Democrat party is in the majority, they are fine with that kind of power; the last Democrat majority BoS that pushed hard for a PD 20+ years ago was nevertheless followed by a 6-3 republican majority. The pendulum then swung (as it always does–see last fall’s statewide sweep–to another D majority, which proved to be so disastrous in some of its members that the following BoS was a full sweep: NO Ds elected.
        We have no business instituting a PD until we choose to update our form of government, and that is a longer and more involved process than starting up a PD.
        The BoS studied changing form last year, and concluded, in the words of Mr. Turner at the time, that the effort was “not enough juice for the squeeze”, both in terms of time and money.
        Until that changes, a PD is a very bad idea. (Would you be happy with a PD whose chief was “under the direct control”, in the words of that long-ago supe, of a Republican majority BoS? The screaming would be epic, I’m sure!)

  • 2022-04-06 at 1:08 pm
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    Tony Buffington states he asks deputies all the time how things are and they say “great”, and they don’t know who I am. It’s laughable – First, they most likely do know who you are (Chapman cheerleader) and second, the Sheriff’s Office is run like a facist organization, with deputies afraid to voice there opinions to anyone for fear of being turned in. Experienced deputies are fleeing in droves and most of the others have given up and just want to mark time until they get to retirement.

  • 2022-04-06 at 1:25 pm
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    In a truly ironic twist, I have always thought we needed minimum qualifications for the school board and the county board. One thing that has impressed me in watching these two clown shows at work is that there are absolutely no requirements for the positions. Loudoun County could certainly do better than what we have. Remember this at election day.

  • 2022-04-06 at 2:41 pm
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    The Sheriff’s Office is doing very well. The County is so-so. And, the School District is abysmal.

    If the BoS needs extra work to do, then FIX THE SCHOOLS.

  • 2022-04-06 at 2:57 pm
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    I agree with Chair Randall: we need updated minimum requirements for candidates running for Sheriff.
    While I do think Sheriff Chapman has done a good job over the years, it wouldn’t hurt to have a non-partisan citizen’s oversight committee when/if issues arise. Loudoun’s Sheriff should be held accountable for their actions and not just at election time. It’s not a matter of politics, it’s a matter of transparency.

    • 2022-04-06 at 4:24 pm
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      Unfortunately there is no such thing as “non-partisan” these days. Only partisan. It will just be a matter of which side holds the majority on that committee and who the Sheriff is.

    • 2022-04-07 at 8:53 am
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      If you’re on Chapman’s side in his political ambitions, you’re OK and morale is great. If you’re a law-enforcement professional who realizes politics has no place in the Sheriff’s office, you find it a toxic environment?

  • 2022-04-06 at 4:18 pm
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    Of all the things that needs to be fixed in this county, it’s not our law enforcement. LCSO and Chapman have been doing just fine now. Perhaps the BoS need to look at themselves to understand that their liberal policies that they have been ramming down our throats is ruining this once beautiful and peaceful county. Don’t try to fix something that isn’t broken. We saw what happened and is happening with the school system. I cannot imagine what will happen with crime if a liberal county executive appoints a police chief….

    Frightening as it may sound, Loudoun is slowing creeping towards Fairfax County territory and shall I say….gulp…Montgomery County territory!

  • 2022-04-06 at 4:21 pm
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    If I recall correctly the Democrats ran a candidate for Sherriff in the last election that had ZERO law enforcement experience. I’m not a fan of Chapman because I do believe he is a politician first and law enforcement second. But the BOS now calling for minimum qualifications after the cliwnshow of a candidate that was presented is yet another example of the Democrats’ self awareness.

    • 2022-04-19 at 9:53 am
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      We need codified credentials for whomever runs for Sheriff. Dig deep into the last person’s credentials who ran against Sheriff Chapman and you’ll be horrified. The reason he ran has potential linkage to the whole unionized PD under the control of the BoS effort. That said, at this point, Sheriff Chapman has the experience and training with the FBI so he is the most viable candidate to be re-elected Sheriff. I have seen comments about the BoS having no control over Sheriff Chapman. Actually, they have ultimate control over him because the BoS has the power of the purse so it’s important for the BoS and Sheriff Chapman to work together so our Deputies are well trained in law enforcement to include conflict de-escalation and can keep us safe. The BoS should cut back on trying to regulate things so much and focus on quality roads and bringing prosperity to the county. Mandating what goes into housing developments is a bit bothersome for me and may cause me to eventually retire elsewhere.

  • 2022-04-06 at 5:59 pm
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    Small Virginia counties, such as Amelia (pop. 13000), Craig (pop. 5000) and even HIghland (pop 2200) must have the ability to elect a Sheriff. Placing unreasonable requirements beyond those which are already codified is absurd.

    The idiots on our BoS have no idea that these small jurisdictions simply cannot be subject to Loudoun’s elitist views of what an elected position *should* look like.

    Some of the garbage that comes from the top of this county’s “leadership” is truly shocking.

  • 2022-04-06 at 6:13 pm
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    It is PAINFULLY obvious politics and LAW enforcement should not mix. Law enforcement should be neutral and political affiliation or tilt should be…SHOULD be irrelevant. I was in law enforcement in LOCO many years ago. It goes like this…you have a great guy as Sheriff (NOTE I say guy as never a gal or a gay) and things are swell. You get a petty Napoleon and things are truly scary for your paycheck and family.

    Can we do better in America anymore? As a system? I am seriously starting to doubt we have the brains and/or guts.

  • 2022-04-06 at 7:44 pm
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    The Sheriff’s Department is fine and the Loudoun County Public Schools are a mess and yet the BoS focuses on what is fien not what needs to be fixed. It is like Joe Biden focusing on Covid instead of inflation. The BoS is out of touch with what is really concerning its citizens. Your skin color, sex, etc is irrelevant you want to hire the best qualified people for any job, including the Sheriff’s Department.

  • 2022-04-07 at 12:15 pm
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    Your coverage of last nights Board of Supervisors meeting was lacking in many respects. Let’s be clear, the main item on the agenda was to be a vote to establish a Police Department in Loudoun County, a concept Chair Phyllis Randal and certain other Supervisors have been championing for months. In spite of no citizen groundswell on the issue, the went ahead and spent $500,000 to study the issue.
    The International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) presented their findings last night. They conducted surveys of the Sheriffs Department which were done anonymously and were responded to by over 60%. The findings uncovered no serious issues within the Sheriffs Department, high morale and an acceptable retention rate!
    They went on to describe some of the significant financial issues that would be involved. By their estimation the cost would exceed $307 Million over ten years and expose the county to an increase in liability costs now currently covered by the state due to the fact that the Sheriff is a constitutionally required position, but not available to a Police Department.
    Only after it was abundantly clear that replacing the Sheriffs Department would be a financial boondoggle, did Chair Randall offer the face facing motion to create minimum standards for candidates running for Sheriff.
    There was an interesting discussion begun by Vice Chair Saines regarding the minimum qualifications for Sheriff that could lead to completely unqualified candidates being elected. It was pointed out that in the last election, someone with no professional law enforcement experience had actually gotten 40% of the vote.
    What seemed to be lost was that Democrats on the Board most likely voted for Justin Hannah, the Democrat nominee! Supervisor Glass had actually endorsed his candidacy. Supervisor Briskman, during the period to ask questions of the IACP panel, was only interested in diversity and equity issues. Apparently she would have no trouble supporting unqualified candidates without professional experience if they ticked off the right gender/race boxes to the detriment of citizen safety.
    There were no “competing” stories on Deputy morale unless you want to credit a very few disgruntle anecdotal statements compared to surveys completed by 60% of the work force and as the IACP panel pointed out, you never get 100% satisfaction. It was also disingenuous to include Randalls sanctimonious comment that she would “never lower myself” to respond to her perceived attack by Sheriff Chapman on this issues, while doing so in an open public hearing.
    For Loudoun Now to publish a story that left out the cost of this survey, the anticipated cost of a Police Department, the completeness and impartiality of the IACP work involved, the slanted presentation of what actually transpired last night definitely does not serve the public well.

    • 2022-04-07 at 3:22 pm
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      “It was also disingenuous to include Randalls sanctimonious comment that she would “never lower myself” to respond to her perceived attack by Sheriff Chapman on this issues, while doing so in an open public hearing.”

      Well said. That jumped out at me as well. Considering the dismissive and negative attitude Phyllis has shown towards local journalists over the years (“File a FOIA” if you want to know what the board is meeting about) etc. you’d think these journalists would be a bit more attentive in their reporting.

      These sophomoric polticans should start sweating when they see Renss Greene walk toward them.

  • 2022-04-07 at 12:52 pm
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    The Sheriff’s department is doing fine and the separation between the Department and the overreach of the Board is well warranted. Once again the BOS trying to create a problem where none exists.

  • 2022-04-07 at 4:44 pm
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    Phyllis J. Randall and the other Dems on the BoS are just not going to be happy until Loudoun is destroyed just like Kenosha, WI, and has anarchy like Portland, OR, and Chicago, etc.

    Minimum requirements. Ok Mr. Buffington which is it: ” the qualifications apparently are that you have to be 18, which if you go to the Sheriff’s Office website and look at employment opportunities the minimum qualification is you have to be 21.” You can apply to be a Deputy and get accepted for training as a Deputy, but you still have to complete the training to be a Deputy. This is similar to enlisting in the Armed Forces. I’m familiar with the Marine Corps. You can enlist at 18, with a High School Diploma. You will not be a Marine until you complete boot camp at one of two USMC resorts. Training will continue throughout your term or career.

  • 2022-04-08 at 4:33 pm
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    The BOS could have hired me for free to write this report.

    The Loudoun Clown Show continues. Is anyone on the BOS or School Board embarrassed by their actions?

    Do they wake up every day and tell themselves they are doing a swell job?

    We need mature adults with no side agenda in these positions.

    Half a mil? Really?

    Lunacy.

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