The public got its first look Tuesday night at a new study on what it would take to replace the Loudoun County Sheriff’s Office with a police department, as some residents shared concerns with county supervisors.
In short, the study commissioned by the county’s board of supervisors finds transitioning the sheriff’s office to a police department would be expensive and complicated.
Under Virginia Law, Loudoun County’s form of government requires it to have a sheriff’s office. However, the county could choose to add a police department and let the sheriff continue to operate jail and court services.
The International Association of Chiefs of Police report finds that making that change would likely cost between $200-300 million in the first 10 years.
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Board members who are promoting the switch say it would allow for more transparency and things like a civilian review board.
Opponents argue that the move is a power grab: The sheriff is elected, but a police chief would be appointed by elected officials.
“It violates the checks and balances that were built into the Constitution. And the executive branch and the judiciary, which includes law enforcement, are supposed to be separate,” Phil Sandoe, who opposes creating a police department, said.
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Most who testified before the board said they opposed the police department idea, but some did speak in favor of it.
“What’s essential for accountability is allowing local governments to have greater control over county law enforcement,” one resident said.
Any changes would require a voter referendum and would also have to be approved by the Virginia General Assembly.