Simpson: 'Back to Business'

Simpson: 'Back to Business'

Sheriff Stephen Simpson plans to make small changes, nothing ‘major,’ at the Sheriff’s Office.

Sheriff Stephen Simpson (R) is ready "to get back to business" after months of campaigning to keep his job.

Simpson, the county’s sheriff for the past eight years, will serve another four years as approved by 46 percent of the voters. His closest contender of five opponents was Chris Jones (D), who received 25 percent of the vote, followed by Independent candidates Chris Harmison, Mark Davis, Peter "Pete" Kalitka and Phillip Daughenbaugh, who split the rest of the vote.

"I felt I had done the right thing for eight years. I guess the rest was up to the community," Simpson said.

Though Simpson did not get 50 percent of the vote, if Jones had been his only contender, Simpson statistically would have carried the vote, he said, since some of those voting for his opponents may have voted for him and not a Democratic candidate. "My leadership, experience and record would have won out anyway," he said, adding that in the next four years, "I’ll continue to lead this agency in the responsive and professional manner that the county has become accustomed to."

IN THAT TIME, Simpson does not plan to make any "major changes," he said. The smaller changes he plans to make include expanding the community-policing program, developing new initiatives to improve traffic safety and coordinating with federal, state and regional entities "to ensure possession of the latest intelligence in security matters," he said. In addition, as a member of the regional and statewide gang task forces, he plans to push for legislative changes that would give the Sheriff’s Office more authority in dealing with gangs.

As for community policing, Simpson plans to increase the number of deputies assigned to specific communities but does not want to pull or "rob" resources from other areas of the Sheriff’s Office to make the change. As of now, five community police officers are assigned to targeted areas in eastern Loudoun to work proactively on community problems before they turn into criminal matters. "We do have an agency-wide community policing philosophy," he said in response to Jones’ appeal for a more expansive program.

Simpson adopted the School Resource Officer program in 1996 as the agency’s first step toward community policing. Through the program, deputies are assigned to patrol specific middle and high schools in the county and to be on site at the campuses.

Two years ago, Simpson began assigning deputies to the same areas of the county as often as possible to allow them to become familiar with the communities they patrol and any trends or problems that may occur. The assignments give the deputies an opportunity to take ownership of problems in the communities and aggressively deal with quality of life issues, instead of running from call to call, he said.

Simpson plans to present the Board of Supervisors with a three to four-year plan to bring the Sheriff’s Office to where it needs to be and to continue to appeal for an increase in the ratio of deputies from .8 per 1,000 residents to 1 per 1,000. The county is facing an increase in gang activity and crime rate as the population increases, along with an increase in traffic volume and safety problems, he said. "As for four years from now, I’m going to continue to do what I’ve been doing, continue to move this agency forward," he said.

THREE OF FIVE of Simpson’s contenders resigned from the Sheriff’s Office to campaign for office, including Jones, Davis and Harmison.

Jones, who has 19 years law enforcement and criminal justice experience, worked as a deputy for the Sheriff’s Office from 1999 to 2003, last assigned to the Community Policing Section.

"I was definitely disappointed, because I firmly believe in our message," Jones said about not being elected to the office and his message of operating the department through a community policing philosophy. "It’s not just a program. It’s a proactive way to serve the community in the most progressive fashion."

Before the election, Jones met with the Independent contenders to ask for their support, fearing that five opponents to Simpson would split the vote to their disadvantage. "It was about who had the greatest chance to beat Simpson," he said, adding that his law enforcement experience in Loudoun and running under a party affiliation gave him the best chance. "I was in a better position to win than they were. I would have valued forming a partnership with them. Egos got in the way, and we all suffered as a result."

Even so, Jones is not sure if he will run again in four years, a decision that will depend on whether or not Simpson expands the community-policing program as he stated he would in his campaigning, he said. In the meantime, he is teaching full-time at the Virginia Community Policing Institute in Richmond.

"Collectively, if we had backed one individual, we could have won the election, I didn’t see that was going to happen," Davis said.

In February, Davis resigned from the Sheriff’s Office after 22 years of service, last serving as 2nd lieutenant in charge of the Court Security and Civil Process sections. He was concerned about the direction of the Sheriff’s Office and Simpson’s leadership, particularly in regards to incidents that have occurred at the county jail and the number of pending lawsuits. "The lawsuits have come because of poor decisions the sheriff has made," he said.

Davis did not mention his future plans, though he has few options he is considering. He is not sure whether or not he will run again for the office. "In four years, I’ll see what the climate is like," he said.

As for this election, "We’re obviously a little disappointed. I think we’re more disappointed in the low voter turnout," he said. "We saw people who were voting hard party lines when we went to the polls."

Harmison, who did not return calls by press time, also resigned from the Sheriff’s Office. He served as a deputy there and as a police officer for 22 years for the Fairfax County Police Department.