Law & Disorder? Accusations of Chaos, Bullying in Virginia Sheriff's Office

Former deputies said there is chaos, bullying and turnover problems inside the Culpeper County Sheriff’s Office.

Four former deputies, who asked to remain anonymous to protect their current employment, said Sheriff Scott Jenkins has created a hostile atmosphere for law enforcement employees in the tiny, picturesque Virginia county two hours south of Washington, D.C.

Jenkins rebuts the criticism and questions why the deputies involved sought to remain anonymous, calling them disgruntled ex-employees and politically motivated. Agency records obtained under the Freedom of Information Act confirm staff resignations, terminations and retirements in the Culpeper County Sheriff’s Office far outpace those in other local sheriff’s departments.

The 101-person Culpeper County Sheriff’s Office has lost 91 employees since 2012, according to those records. The rate of staff turnover in the agency was nearly three times higher than staff departures in Prince William, Loudoun and Fairfax counties, according to the I-Team investigation.

The former deputies said Jenkins has bullied staff since his election in 2012, triggering some of the resignations and retirements. One former deputy said, “It’s not just disgruntled employees, this is actually a legitimate problem.” Another former deputy said, “(Jenkins) would get so angry, sometimes even pounding his fist on the table. Sometimes (he used) vulgar names, just to tear you down. He tore many people down.” Another former deputy said, “He treated me so bad, I just couldn’t take it anymore. I’ll be honest, I got off the phone and cried to my wife. I couldn’t take it.”

The rate of staff turnover is a potential risk to the Culpeper community, according to a former deputy. “You get new officers that are not familiar with the community or the people within it. So their response time to calls is (longer). How they deal with people is different.”

Jenkins declined multiple requests for an on-camera interview. When the News4 I-Team approached Jenkins as he visited the site of an agency event in October, Jenkins drove off. He did not appear at a public hearing of his Culpeper County Public Safety Committee in October.

Jenkins instead issued a lengthy written statement to the I-Team. The statement said, in part, “Of the sixty-some deputies who have left the office over the past six years there are a variety of reasons for this to include but not limited to: criminal activity, gross violations of ethical requirements or policies, retirements, persons leaving to join other agencies for better pay or to pursue other careers. Starting salaries are low and it is hard to compete with the private sector, federal positions and jurisdictions like Prince William County or Fairfax County. I do not believe the citizens of Culpeper County have any reason for concern regarding turnover.”

Reported by Scott MacFarlane, produced by Rick Yarborough, and shot and edited by Steve Jones.

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