“I can’t recall a time when there has been more attention paid to the training and professionalism of law enforcement personnel,” said Loudoun County Sheriff Mike Chapman in a conversation this week about his efforts over the past five years.
“It’s attention that we welcome here at LCSO [the Loudoun County Sheriff’s Office] because there’s so much at stake when it comes to responsible, effective policing and good community relations,” he added.
Violence in Charlotte, North Carolina, and protests in other US cities have put an even larger magnifying glass on the approach that local agencies take when it comes to the training and conduct of their police officers — and why some agencies appear to be getting things right more than others.
For Chapman, one reason why things work well in Loudoun County is the example that is set from the top down, including the standards enforced by everyone on LCSO’s senior management team. The other is recruitment and retention.
“We want the best people, it’s that simple,” Chapman said. “I’ve made a lot of changes since taking office in 2012, all with the purpose of enhancing the quality and professionalism of what we do, and how we interface with the community. It’s an ongoing process, and a commitment we make to Loudoun County every day.”
” … there’s so much at stake when it comes to responsible, effective policing and good community relations.”
Sheriff Mike Chapman
Chapman points with pride to LCSO’s ‘Be A Hero’ initiative, highlighted in a recent press release from his office.
State and local law enforcement agencies have had increased challenges retaining employees, according to LCSO Public Information Officer Kraig Troxell. By any measure the LCSO has experienced a low rate of attrition, 8% or less on average – significantly lower than County government as a whole — but attracting and keeping good people is still a work in progress.
The LCSO’s initiative aims to boost recruitment and retain the best employees through a continuous STEP-Up strategy of improving service, technology, efficiency and professionalism. That same STEP-Up approach has been Chapman’s calling card since he first campaigned for the office in 2011.
The LCSO has 35 applicants for its 48 currently open deputy billets, and with a recently improved retirement multiplier, the LCSO believes additional deputy positions will become available in the near future. Keeping and attracting the best also means offering sworn and civilian employees the tools they need to succeed and feel rewarded for accomplishment, Chapman said.
Four years ago, the LCSO obtained night differential for its deputies. In the past year, there has been other progress to boost retention and attract quality applicants, including the following:
- Increasing the retirement system multiplier from 1.7% to 1.85% to be competitive with surrounding jurisdictions;
- Encouraging employees to pursue undergraduate and graduate degrees, and specialized education, through partial tuition reimbursements;
- Advancing the goal of having all deputies Crisis Intervention Team trained and certified (over 270 deputies are now trained, about 50%);
- Mandating and funding leadership training for all newly promoted supervisors;
- Expanding career development opportunities through temporary and permanent re-assignments; and
- Promoting over 58 employees to supervisory/leadership ranks
The LCSO just completed an upgrade of its records management system and computer aided dispatch system too, both of which help deputies respond more quickly and efficiently. Besides its main office in Leesburg, LCSO has opened substations in Sterling and Chantilly (Dulles South). A third station is about to open in Round Hill and a fourth is under construction in Ashburn, Troxell said.
With more public scrutiny, LCSO is equipping more of its deputies with cameras. Forty-two deputies have body cams now, the LCSO has applied for a federal grant to purchase 41 more, and 255 patrol vehicles are equipped with a dash camera. Given increased concerns about heroin and other drug overdoses, over 160 deputies have been trained to administer Naloxone (narcan) in an emergency overdose situation. One such emergency occurred on Sept. 19 where deputies saved the life of an unconscious woman who had symptoms of a suspected heroin overdose. This was the eighth instance where LCSO deputies have saved a life using Naloxone this year, based on previous reporting.
To fulfill LCSO’s aggressive hiring initiative, Chapman has increased the number of background investigators to more rapidly fill existing vacancies. The training process has been further augmented as new recruits are now attending simultaneous training academies for corrections and patrol.
“Loudoun is a highly diverse community and it’s important that we continue to diversity our workforce too,” Chapman said. Recently, LCSO developed a media-focused recruitment drive as part of this outreach program, including a four-week ad campaign on WPGC- 95.5 FM, an appearance on the station’s local public interest program, and an email campaign.
LCSO recruitment personnel continue to attend local and statewide community events and career fairs to promote job opportunities. In the coming weeks three more such opportunities are scheduled: at the Radford University Career Fair Oct. 5; at the Prince Georges Community College Job Fair and Expo Oct. 12; and at the Annual For Sisters Only event at the Washington Convention Center Nov. 5.
Loudoun has the largest full-service sheriff’s office in Virginia, given the size of the county and that policing, jail and court security activities are unified under one office. LCSO employs approximately 582 sworn and 160 civilian employees in divisions that include Patrol, Investigations, Operational Support, Courts and Corrections, and Administration and Technology.