Last night in Leesburg, Virginia, the Loudoun County Republican Women’s Club held the only debate between the two candidates for the Republican nomination for the office of sheriff: Sheriff Mike Chapman and challenger Eric Noble. The nomination will be determined at the May 2 Loudoun County Republican Committee convention, to decide who will represent the party in the November 2015 elections.
The debate was well-organized, impeccably moderated by Delegate Randy Minchew, and had excellent turnout. Attendees filled the room at the Rust Library. The sound system, however, was a bit sketchy, not seeming to cover the entire room evenly, and some had a hard time hearing everything that was said. Chapman, who stood a few inches further from the microphone and has a more laid back speaking style, at some times was quite faint. So, in order to do my write up of the debate I needed to listen to my recording and transcribe most of it …. and decided, what they hey, to post it here for all of you, and for those at the event who want another shot at it. I can tell you, that reading it gives a clearer picture of what the two gentlemen were saying, than I got even from sitting in the front row. I think eventually a video will be posted, but in case you are not in the mood to watch a 1 hr, 20 min. video, the following may prove helpful.
[There may be some errors, although I think they will be minor. I edited for basic clarity – but if you compare to a recording you will see this is very close to verbatim. The format was: they rotated in order of response and the first person got a rebuttal, then there was a “speed round” with shorter time limits. Also at one point they questioned each other. You will figure it out as you read. In places where I could not tell what was said, even from listening carefully to the recording, I used an ellipsis ….. to mark any unintelligible portions. I posted a copy of the audio file at the bottom of this post – the link will stay live until around May 2. It is a WMA file so best to play on a Windows computer.]
SHERIFF DEBATE TRANSCRIPT
Eric Noble Opening Statement
Convention delegates have a stark choice at this convention, when they’ll be choosing between two candidates. One that emphasizes local law enforcement, and puts deputies on the street, and a local policing model that is proactive rather than reactive. The other is built on experience gained in a federal bureaucracy where the commanders at the head office are often out of touch and out of step with what’s going on in the street. But they put a premium on press releases, and their management style is reactive, not proactive.
Let me give you just one example. The Silver Line is coming in 2018, and I’ve talked to agencies that had train stations open up recently. And what you hear from those folks is real concern. I’ll give you an example. At Tyson’s Corner Mall, the day the Silver Line opened, they had a crime issue, and it’s still there. Yet with Metro on the horizon, Mike just issued a five year plan, and nowhere in that plan does it talk about the Silver Line at all. On the other hand, I have a proactive plan: Identify and baseline the metrics today, so that we can understand the problem when that train station does open. I’m talking about developing enforcement and education strategies so that on the day that ribbon is cut, and hits the ground, we’re in a position to address both public safety and quality of life issues.
But I have to say, there’s more than just strategies, ladies and gentlemen. It’s also about taking care of people. And I’m talking about fundamentally changing the way we treat our employees in the Sheriff’s Office … It’s about giving the exact same protections to deputy sheriffs that every single police officer in the commonwealth of Virginia has. It’s about promoting a culture of fairness, including our promotion and our disciplinary processes.
I’ve built my reputation in the county over 27 years of service. I’ve won valor awards. I’ve saved lives. I’ve made a difference in my community. As I’ve taken this journey from a deputy to a senior commander, I’ve commanded men and women through growth that’s never been seen before. Transformational change, thinking outside the box: I know it, I’m comfortable with it, because I’ve lived it as we’ve grown from 74,000 to 360,000 residents in this county. Let me conclude by saying how grateful I am for the support I’ve received from fellow Republicans and office holders, including a resounding straw poll win at this past Saturday’s jamboree. I also want to express how honored I am to have received the endorsement of our commonwealth’s attorney. So thank you so much, I look forward to answering questions.
Mike Chapman Opening Statement
Four years ago, the Republican Party nominated me as its candidate for sheriff. The party saw I had Republican, conservative values, a comprehensive law enforcement leadership background, and a clear vision to move the sheriff’s office into the 21st century. I was overwhelmingly voted in to implement my plan to improve service, technology, efficiency and professionalism. To do this I formed a leadership team with top secret security clearances, special skill sets, and innovative ideas. To maintain institutional knowledge, I took a leap of faith and appointed two internal senior managers to executive leadership positions, in hopes that they too would contribute innovative solutions.
One was my opponent, Eric Noble. However, instead of being productive, he weakened the Sheriff’s Office almost immediately. From a totally unrelated investigation, we learned that my opponent for over a year had secretly sent unprofessional emails, and had developed several aliases to attack the competency, integrity and honesty of colleagues and executive staff members he served with through numerous anonymous and cowardly newspaper blogs. He also attempted to plant harmful news stories targeting the very organizations he had sword to uphold. The county attorney’s office reviewed this information and recommended my opponent’s immediate suspension. Once the investigation was complete, both the county attorney’s office and human resources determined that there were serious integrity issues and prepared a notice of termination for my signature. I provided Eric Noble with an option to retire, and he did.
Despite my opponent’s attempts to undermine the success of its mission, this administration has produced an exceptional record of accomplishment. We achieved the highest rating ever of citizen satisfaction – over 91 percent. Prior administrations never broke the 80s. Also, crime is down 18 percent and we have returned over $4.5 million to county coffers since I have been in office. We have instituted cost-effective programs that include crisis intervention training, fraud awareness for seniors, Internet safety for parents and children, expanded DARE at middle school, and saved hundreds of thousands of dollars through online reporting. Our deputies stay on the job at far greater rates than the county as a whole and they have never been better trained or equipped.
We have an outstanding working relationship with our counterparts. Less than two weeks ago we likely had the largest drug bust in Loudoun County’s history – over five pounds of cocaine and other significant drugs including heroin. It would have taken thousands of street buys under my opponent’s counter drug plan to achieve our detectives’ accomplishment in a single investigation.
Folks, this is about getting results with leadership and integrity, not about going backwards. I look forward to discussing these issues tonight, and earning your vote in the Republican nomination on May 2.
In the case of Mack and Printz vs United States, a decision of the United States Supreme Court, 521 US, 898 (1997) case, a number of sheriffs challenged the Clinton administration’s enactment of certain parts of the Brady Act as unconstitutional. The United States Supreme Court agreed with the sheriffs, stating “The federal government may not compel the states to enact or enforce a federal regulatory program.” In your opinion, gentlemen, what is the role of the Loudoun County Sheriff’s Office with respect to mandates and regulations issued by the federal government? Some of the examples may include gun control, illegal immigration, searches and seizures, among others.
Eric Noble answer
That is quite honestly a complicated issue. Ultimately, a sheriff’s responsible for his or her community. Now, when we take an oath of office, we say we shall support the Constitution of the United States. We also say we shall support the Constitution of the commonwealth of Virginia, and you all know that we’re not about allowing the federal government to dictate how we police Loudoun County. I’m proud to say that in the 27 years I’ve been involved in policing this county, we have not felt the influence of the federal government in how we treat our citizens; in how we do the everyday job that we need to do – not just to enforce the law, but to address our quality of life issues, to work with our communities on what’s important to them, to understand that as our community grows, and our demographics change, that we address an evolving set of communities and make sure that we’re doing the job that we need to do. And that’s not federal intervention, that’s not being dictated by the federal government. That is a local philosophy. And if you’re interested in how a local philosophy applies to the Loudoun County Sheriff’s Office, then I would recommend finding somebody who has done that.
My opponent has a federal background. And I don’t want him to fall into that trap of a federal perspective, and now we’re running this county like the federal government is run. We need local law enforcement. We need a proactive rather than a reactive approach. And we need to make our communities safe based on what we as a community decide.
Mike Chapman answer
I’ve been in local law enforcement for 10 years of my career and I’ve had 23 years of federal government experience as a special agent, and also three years in the private sector. I think that well-rounded experience gives me a perspective that local law enforcement personnel may not have. It gives me a broader perspective on how exactly we integrate and how we address our federal issues. Clearly, if there’s a law that’s overturned that’s found in our favor in state government, in the commonwealth of Virginia, that’s not in favor of the federal government, we’re as constitutional officers responsible for enforcing the Constitution of the state of Virginia, and the laws and the rules that apply to us here.
That said, what I can tell you is that by working hand in hand with our counterparts – whether it’s our local law enforcement, our state police, our federal counterparts – we can do much more working together and applying our resources than we can simply by thinking that we can go this alone. As I mentioned before we had the drug bust that happened just a couple weeks ago, probably the largest drug bust that we’ve ever had, and by working with people across the board – state police, our local counterparts, our police in Baltimore, our police in New York, and our federal counterparts – we were able to combine resources and make sure that we get the biggest bang for our buck, and that we actually get to the bottom of these things and make sure that we get major arrests. We can sit here and do little local busts all day long but if you can get a drug supplier at the top of the chain …. it’ll take you a thousand buys to get what you could for a single arrest, and this is where working together, but not being beholden to the federal government, is important.
It’s important that we work together, not think that we can do everything all by ourselves, this is a growing county, it’s a diverse county, it’s right near the Washington DC corridor, and we have a lot that we have to do and a lot of people that we have to work with. We can’t be isolationists, we can’t do everything unilaterally. We do have to work together to get the biggest result, the best result, for what it is that we do.
Back to the original question: We will enforce, certainly, the Constitution and the laws of the commonwealth of Virginia, but certainly laws that apply to everybody nationwide we just can’t say we’re not going to do it, unless it is determined that we’re not bound to actually have to apply those laws.
Eric Noble rebuttal
Let me just say that while my local law enforcement experience ended four months ago, Mike’s ended a quarter century ago. And by the way, I’m excited about that narcotics arrest, and I’m excited because it’s exactly what I’ve been talking about for the last four months: And that is, we build cases from the bottom up. That was a street level case worked by detectives inside this county, not a task force case.
But I will leave you with this about that case: Look at the quantity of drugs and look at the quantity of money that we found in Loudoun County. Do you think a first-time dealer’s going to come down from New York and bring that kind of money and that kind of narcotics into this county, on a first-time run? Ladies and gentlemen, why did it take three and a half years to make this arrest? Three and a half years. Heroin exploded over the last three years. 263 percent increase in overdoses, 40 percent increase in deaths. Why does it take three and a half years to make these kinds of arrests? There’s no good reason for that.
What is missing in the national discussion about the use of force by the police, that could best explain how use of force issues should be reviewed? What principle should inform law enforcement policies and practices and how they should be followed locally?
Mike Chapman answer
Use of force as you know is a big issue right now throughout the United States, and I think what’s important about this is to make sure that our deputies out there get the proper training that they need. What we’ve done in Loudoun County is we’ve just finished our tenth iteration of crisis intervention training. Many cases of excessive use of force have to do with the fact that we’re dealing with mentally ill subjects and some times violent persons, and in order to deal with these people properly what we want to do is training, specialized training, 40 hours for each of our deputies so that they can de-escalate these situations, so you don’t have these violent situations that you’re seeing right now.
We’ve been proactive on this, in fact I’ve led the national sheriff’s association, the major county sheriff’s association on this issue. I wrote an article for the Police Chief magazine about what we’re doing with mental health issues and this type of training. But it applies across the board. It’s very, very important that we make sure that our deputies have the communication skills they need to de-escalate these situations. We also just implemented leadership training, not just for our leaders but for the deputies and the rank-and-file as well. Very, very important.
As far as examining or investigating the use of force, I can tell you what we’ve done here in Loudoun County. We’ve had a couple of incidents as you all know. As soon as we did, as soon as we had anything that was questionable, that seemed kind of big, that might be looked at as, if we investigated, it might be some nefarious way of handling it: What we did is immediately had state police come in and take it, and we have also had the FBI come in and take our case. We want to make sure that we get independent eyes looking at what it is that we do, and make sure that we have just a completely independent investigation. Now we often help with these, but we make sure that their investigation is done independent of ours, so that we’re not looking at any way, shape or form ….
And another thing that was mentioned, I think my opponent referred to our contact with the press: I can tell you this. One of the things that I always felt was a problem in Ferguson was the fact that it took three days for their police chief to get out here in front of the public, and I can tell you that on every serious issue that we’ve had, I go right out, I get right in front of the cameras, and I report exactly what it is that we had. And I can tell you what: Doing that alleviates a lot of suspicion and a lot of fears. What happens a lot of times is when you don’t get out right in front of the issue it looks as though you’re trying to build a story, make a conspiracy. You don’t ever want that to happen. We operate with complete honesty, integrity and transparency, and we’re going to continue to do that, that’s very important to me and as a citizen I think that’s very important to you.
Eric Noble answer
Let’s answer the question at issue here: What is going on in this country? I’ll tell you. We do a great job hiring deputies, and we do a great job in this country hiring police officers for the most part. In Loudoun County, we’re particularly good at making sure they’re physically fit. We do a physical abilities test. We do a pretty good background test.
What’s the one thing, ladies and gentlemen, we don’t test for? Empathy and compassion. If you’re wondering what’s going on in this country, if you’re wondering how we’re shooting people in the backs as they’re fleeing, let me tell you how. Because we don’t do those things. We’re not testing for compassion. We’re not testing for empathy. Those are characteristics, by the way, that don’t add to the process, they’re easy to test for, and they’d make a difference in this country, and they’ll make a difference in Loudoun County.
We’re also governed by case law. That’s what governs what goes on. Graham vs Conner: What makes our actions objectively reasonable? These are the things that are important. This is the frameworks we use to judge whether or not our officers are using force excessively or using force reasonably. And we need to make sure they understand that. How much constitutional law training does this agency do? Zero. None. DCGS requires four hours of legal training every two years. This agency does none of that. Under my administration we do eight hours every year. We test it, by golly. We make sure that man or woman understands constitutional law before they go back out in that cruiser or back out onto that housing unit in the jail. A lot of case law dictates what we do.
Fail to train by the way – Zukel v Denver says that you not only have to test for proficiency, you have to test judgement. You’ve got to make sure people know when to pull the trigger but most importantly when not to pull the trigger. And how much of that are we doing in this county? Zero. We’re not doing it. Now part of that is structural, I grant you. But part of that is that there’s not emphasis on it.
Getting right out in front of the cameras? That’s what we did at Costco. That’s what my opponent did at Costco, got right out in front of the cameras. Meantime, a deputy’s at Fairfax trauma center with a bullet wound in his body. And did our leader ever visit him in the hospital? No. I don’t know how you define leadership. Eric Noble doesn’t waste time doing a press conference when his man’s in the hospital trauma unit. I make sure I go to the hospital. I make sure not only is my man ok but that his family’s ok, that his family knows what went on. So maybe it is a little bit important getting in front of the media. But the men and women of the agency are more important. And as a sheriff, I make sure that I get there, I make sure that they’re ok before I ever think about stepping in front of a camera.
Mike Chapman rebuttal
It’s interesting that my opponent would talk about constitutional law training at the academy when he actually worked at the academy and had the opportunity to implement something like that, and never did.
Use of force is an important issue, and we do a lot when it comes to the use of force. The training that we have at the academy is six months long. We also have about four months of field training. It’s not easy to go through all this; it takes about two years to actually get somebody through the entire process of not only going through the academy and getting hired on and moving out to the field, but to actually be effective out there in the field. So it takes about two years, and so we work hard. We do psychological evaluations. We do all kinds of polygraph exams, medical evaluations, you name it. Out of 1,000 people only about 30 get through the academy. So we are doing our job, and we are making sure that the job is getting done right. Like I said, my opponent was at the academy, and he had an opportunity to try and do something, and he never did.
Questions to each other:
Eric Noble to Mike Chapman: Mike, there have been a number of rumors that you – and Scott York – are planning to run as an Independent if you lose at the convention. I promise to abide by the will of the convention, and if I lose I’ll close my campaign. My question is: Will you pledge to the audience and all Loudoun County Republicans, that if you lose the nomination at the convention you will not run with any other party, and close your campaign?
Mike Chapman answer
I stand by my pledge of supporting Republican candidates in this election.
Eric Noble rebuttal
I am going to say very quickly why I run as a Republican, and what I like about this party. I’ve got to tell you, a few things impress me. Number one is that, much like I feel, a lot of folks in this party are considering our Constitution to be sacred, and we worry about how we tread on the Fourth Amendment, we worry about how we tread on the Fifth Amendment, and …. we worry about how we tread on the Eighth Amendment. And I love the fact that this party’s as concerned about that as I am. I also like the fact that this party’s filled with fiscal conservatives, and I like the fact that we rightfully worry about how we spend our tax dollars. And so that’s why I enjoy being a Republican. That’s why I said that if I cannot win this nomination then I will close my candidacy because I stand on principle.
Mike Chapman to Eric Noble: Mr. Noble, almost four years ago you met me while I was campaigning for this office and you were working for the former sheriff, to express an interest in being a part of the new team if and when I was elected. You were only one of two senior leaders in the Loudoun County Sheriff’s Office to do this. I took you at your word when I took office and I appointed you to an executive level position. I am sure we were all in agreement on our way forward I held, and still hold, daily executive meetings, maintain an open door policy, and engage regularly with our personnel across the board, both deputies and civilians, in quality improvement meetings. I take calls at all hours of the night and day, receive hundreds of emails every day, and have maintained what I believe, from the many administrations I have served in, the most open, transparent and interactive administration that I have ever been associated with. Every day, members of the executive staff come in my office to discuss a myriad of issues and concerns. However, the three years you served as an executive member of this administration, I don’t recall a single occasion when you came to my office to discuss any issue with me. You never called me on the phone and you never met with me. You didn’t provide any innovative ideas, suggestions, or solutions. Yet, you had no hesitation to attack me and members of this administration with your numerous, unprofessional and hurtful emails, and cowardly, anonymous blogs, by trying to plant negative newspaper stories targeting the very administration you served, and by chronically complaining about our leadership to numerous outside entities. These insidious actions are certainly not reflective of ethical leadership. In your mailer to delegates you state that …. you will “Establish a new emphasis on ethics in the department, beginning with the office of sheriff.” How do you justify this comment when you yourself engaged in such unethical behavior?
Eric Noble answer
Let me address this issue first by saying, in FY 12 – and by the way we do our personnel evaluations by fiscal year – in FY 12, FY 13, FY 14, I got outstanding employee reviews. Terms like “exceptional.” Terms like “outstanding.” Scores that were almost at the top. Those were the evaluations I got. Those were the judgements by our Lt. Colonel, unit 2, Chris Harmison. Signed by this man, as a reviewer. I find it curious that, through those years, he didn’t have an issue with my job performance. He signed off on those evaluations. He was happy with those evaluations.
And I disagree that we didn’t talk. Plenty of times we talked. Plenty of issues that we talked about. We had to. I can’t operate a a major and not be able to talk to the sheriff. I’ll give you some great examples. I was sick and tired, after the first year, of signing off on contracts, to people who donated to his campaign, and I said so. That was a meeting we had. And was it uncomfortable? Absolutely. It was uncomfortable. But I couldn’t stand for that any more. When a man donates $6,000 of in-kind services to a campaign, and then this agency turns around and gives him a $14,500 contract, I cannot abide by that. Nor will I abide by it. Those are some of the discussions we had. But my performance spoke for itself.
Now, was it my finest moment when I made some comments in a paper under an assumed name? No, and I’ll apologize to you all right now for that. That wasn’t my finest moment. Is it borne out of frustration out of what I saw at this agency over the last three years? Absolutely. It absolutely is. So I don’t make any excuses about my performance.
In fact, I’m proud of my performance at this agency. I’m not proud just for the last three years under this sheriff; I’m proud for the last 27 years. I told you before: A multi-time valor award winner. I’ve saved lives in this county. I put it all on the line for 27 years for this community. And I’ve earned the respect of this community, not only within my own agency, but with the men and women who staff this county government. From Tim Hemstreet, to general services, to capital construction, to budget. They know me, they like me, they support me because I’ve been here for 27 years. And I have a track record and it’s there for all to see.
Mike Chapman rebuttal
Ladies and gentlemen, his performance – he had an opportunity like anybody else on the executive staff and talk regularly with us. What he says about contracts – he was in charge of contracts. If he had an issue with a contract he should have actually brought it up and said something to me, which he did not. I was in the consulting world, I know many people in the consulting business, and there is no violation for me to suggest a vendor, but the final decision is actually made by county government and the county procurement office, based on the recommendations of Mr. Noble. So if Mr. Noble had problems with any of the people that we contracted with for the time that I was there, it would have been his responsibility to say that to me, or to stop that, or to say something to county administration, and he never did.
In November, it was stated in an email update from the office of the sheriff that increased cooperation with federal agencies has led to the Loudoun County Sheriff’s Office to “have increased our ability to obtain equipment and additional funding through asset forfeiture.” Gentlemen, what is your opinion on bills such as Delegate Mark Cole’s House Bill 1287 that was heard this year in Richmond? That bill requires that any action for the forfeiture of property used in connection with the commission of a crime be stayed until the person whose property is the subject of forfeiture action has been convicted of a crime authorizing the forfeiture and has exhausted all appeals. That bill passed the House 92-6, and failed in the Senate.
Mike Chapman answer
I think it’s important that we distinguish between civil forfeiture and criminal forfeiture; I think that’s the problem here. One of the biggest tools that we have, in drug law enforcement especially, is the ability to take away people’s property when they’ve committed a crime, when you may not have enough to convict them of that crime, but knowing for example that this will debilitate the organization and have a major hit on the way that they do their operations.
For example, you stop a car, and it’s got $10,000, $100,000 in it – you know it’s drug related. There’s no drugs in the car, it’s not a crime to be transporting that money, but everything that you have indicates that this person has just completed a drug deal. And to not have that ability is going to really hurt us down the line when it comes to taking action against these drug traffickers. It’s very, very important that we have a lot of tools in our tool box to use, and that unfortunately is one that is getting challenged ….
I’ll abide by whatever laws are passed, and we’ll do whatever we have to do. If it requires proof beyond a reasonable doubt to seize somebody’s property, that’s what we’ll do. But until that’s the case, I think it’s a very important tool for us to use in order to have a major impact and effect on the drug traffickers out there and other criminals that are playing with a lot of money that is illegally obtained. And for us to not have any avenue for taking that from them and debilitating the organization I think, quite frankly, is not good. I think it’s important that we have all the tools that we can in our tool box.
Eric Noble answer
If you don’t understand the process, by the way: When we seize assets, we call it that – “seized assets.” And then ultimately there’s some adjudication and then they become available to be forfeit. And in that case, if a bill’s going to extend that process for forfeiture, from the initial conviction through an appeal process, I don’t have an issue with that. Does it make the money sit there a bit longer before it can be used? Absolutely. But if we’re guaranteeing that that person’s getting every bit of due process they can get before we finally seize their assets associated with this criminal conviction, I don’t think that’s such a bad thing.
I agree too, though, that these are ways that we fund our operatons. You can’t completely do away with asset forfeiture.
Now, that being said, I do draw a distinction here, and that is this idea of going rampant with civil seizures. And we see companies out there that market classes designed solely to teach officers how to make civil seizure after civil seizure after civil seizure. And you hear these awful cases: A man who’s going down to Tidewater with $20,000 in his car, to go buy restaurant equipment because he’s opening up his own restaurant. And his money gets seized and he never gets it back. Now there, ladies and gentlemen, we have to draw a line. I’m all about punishing the criminals. I all about righteously rolling that forfeited money back into operations so that we can be more robust in how we attack crime in Loudoun County. But when we’re seizing civil funds, civil property from folks who are going down to Tidewater to buy some restaurant equipment, I honestly think that’s where we do draw the line. And I think that’s what that bill was starting to work on, and I’m fully supportive of it.
Mike Chapman rebuttal
This is probably one of the few areas where we’re going to find some agreement here tonight. I do believe in due process. I do believe that it’s important that adjudication be …. we can’t seize assets civilly or criminally until properly adjudicated, so it does go through a process. But we do want to make sure that it’s an adequate process. We want to make sure that people aren’t out there targeting people just for their assets. We should be looking for criminal violations, and in the meantime if you come across an asset that is indicative of a criminal violation it would be wrong to not seize it and to not go through the process, at least try to get some impact on drug trafficking or whatever violation that they’re doing, to try to have an impact on what they do.
Gentlemen, you have different opinions on the use of our investigators in task forces and relationships with outside jurisdictions and agencies. Please explain why collaborating on task forces is or is not important to your leadership, or proposed leadership, of the Loudoun County Sheriff’s Office.
Eric Noble answer
I don’t think we have a difference of opinion. We simply have a difference of opinion on the scale of how we utilize task forces. There is a place in law enforcement for task forces. They’re a great tool. Where I draw the line, and I’ll give you an example, is when we reorganize our narcotics unit in the fall of 2013. And it goes from 21 deputies down to 17, and of those 17, four are still vacant, so that’s at 13. Of those 13, only four positions – four detectives – are assigned to street level and intermediate level narcotics enforcement.
I’m here to tell you, ladies and gentlemen, that four detectives cannot conduct narcotics investigations in Loudoun County – over 520 square miles. So it’s not an issue that I have with task forces. It’s an issue I have with how we distribute personnel across task forces. One of our detectives is on a sovereign citizen task force. Now, I’ve been around Loudoun County a pretty long time, and I can tell you, I may have bumped into one or two or three sovereign citizens in my entire career. And I’m not saying that’s not an issue for plenty of jurisdictions, but when I weigh the scale of issues in Loudoun County, why would I have a guy on the sovereign citizen task force and not working narcotics here in the county? I would rather have that guy being a detective in the county, doing the kind of enforcement that we want.
There are other task forces too, by the way, that we don’t avail ourselves of. We have a lot of guys on DPA task forces. But there are other task forces that may be more relevant. There’s an FBI task force, for instance, a program specifically designed for commuter drug dealers. It is exactly the kind of thing that we should be putting a detective on because it attacks exactly what the problem is in Loudoun County, and that is the commuter drug dealer. Safe Streets is the program. Our detectives want to go on it. They asked to go on it. They asked to go on it about a year ago, and they’re not on it now. So again, it’s not an issue of task forces – it’s not a real big difference between us how we feel about task forces, they’re a great tool. But let’s make sure that we’re doing it in the ratios that are important to Loudoun County. And let’s make sure that if there’s another good task force out there that’s not DEA, that we use it, too.
Mike Chapman answer
Let me correct some of the facts that Mr. Noble just stated here. We’ve moved four of our narcotics people out to the field …. We had a rash of burglaries that were happening in South Riding, and we felt as though it would be good to get our detectives integrated with the communities that they serve. They work with patrol deputies. They work with the crime prevention people, the community resource officers. We’ve had a major impact on property crimes by assigning our detectives to the stations.
What we did do, is we took four people that had been at the narcotics task force for quite a long time, because we felt that a change of scenery is probably good sometimes. I think that people can get into positions, sometimes, and every once in a while you’ve got to move them around. So that’s exactly what we do, we move them around. What we did do after that is we brought in the rapid response unit to augment what was going on with our narcotics units so that they could do a lot more of the street surveillance, do a lot more of the jump out sort of activities, and that’s what we try to do is augment that. So we actually took a unit that was already supplementing in patrol and in the SWAT unit, and we ended up migrating them over to the task forces, rather than to the narcotics unit, to help out there. So there was a bit of a net loss, but it was not the loss that Mr. Noble’s trying to claim. We do have task forces.
We have a lot of small task forces which really are not task forces, just collateral duties that our deputies are on so that they get assets, and funding, and help when they need to investigate something that’s out of the ordinary. So those are not full time task forces. Our full time task force deputies are actually the same as they were before. We have four assigned full time in task forces. We have two on the …. task force which is a drug enforcement task force. We have one on a state police task force. And we have one on the FBI joint terrorism task force. All very, very important task forces, and we’ve been very, very successful with the work that we’ve done.
The beauty of working in task forces is what I mentioned earlier. In order to get the biggest bang for your buck, when you work with them – and I have to correct also the case that he made, that Mr. Noble talked about being a street level case: It was a street level case that we had our biggest seizure here. It was off of a traffic stop that developed into a much bigger case, but that could not have been done without the systems in place that the Drug Enforcement Administration has and the FBI have in place, that enable us to access computer data and be able to tie drug traffickers in to bigger organizations. I was at a Loudoun Young Republicans Committee and I heard my opponent state, “Hey, I don’t care what happens in Baltimore. I only care about what happens here in Loudoun County.” Well, I can tell you in Baltimore, we have identified a drug trafficker in Baltimore that supplied the drugs that killed somebody here, in Loudoun County. So what happens in Baltimore does impact what happens here. What happened in New York two weeks ago impacts what happened here. We can’t get that done without cooperation amongst all of us.
Eric Noble rebuttal
Well I think it’s interesting to hear this justification about the reorganization and somehow that improved narcotics enforcement in Loudoun County. So as heroin’s exploding from 2012 to 2014, let’s look at our arrests: 53 percent lower per 100,000 than Prince William County; 33 percent lower than Fairfax; 26 percent lower than Arlington. If heroin use is going up, overdoses and deaths are going up, and our arrests are going down, ladies and gentlemen, something is not working in Loudoun County.
SPEED ROUND Questions: Alternating 1 minute answers and 30 second rebuttals
Question: The Silver Line is supposed to enter Loudoun County in 2018. What effect do you expect this will have on crime in our county, and how will you address its impacts?
Eric Noble answer
Well there are two issues. It is going to impact crime because we’ve seen that in other jurisdictions, but it’s also going to impact quality of life issues. And the idea is that now, let’s look at what the metrics are – what are we doing to baseline now so that we understand what the impacts are the day it does open? And then we start building our enforcement – and our education strategies, by the way. We need to understand that this thing is really going to alter fundamentally the geography along that line. And so we need to be prepared, we need to have a plan in place, not when it opens, but now. Let’s do that now. And we’re going to see issues in terms of pedestrian traffic, we’re going to see issues in terms of vehicular traffic, and we’re also going to see crimes specifically around the commercial areas, because that’s what other jurisdictions are seeing. So let’s not wait until the thing opens, let’s start working on it now. Let’s start baselining those metrics now. Let’s understand what the impact’s going to be, and then plan appropriately with a course of action developed today.
Mike Chapman rebuttal
Of course this is a concern of ours, it’s something that we are planning for, it’s something that we’re looking out for. This is a growing county. We are concerned about it. You have the Metro – MWAA – police that actually are responsible for most of what goes on within the Metro itself and the surrounding areas, the parking lots and so forth. But you are going to see an increase of pedestrian traffic, you’re going to see an increase of just general people traffic coming out this way, and that’s part of what goes on with more growing, we’re becoming more diverse, and we’ve got to be planning for not just Metro, but for increase in population, and increase in diversity, and we’re doing just that.
Question: With a nearly $80 million budget and growing, how important is the relationship with the Board of Supervisors, and how do you continue to improve this relationship with the Board of Supervisors, especially the Finance Committee?
Mike Chapman answer
As you know, a few years ago there was a projected $3 million deficit – that was not $3 million, it ended up being just, in the end about $500,000. The responsibility for that came under my opponent, Mr. Noble. What we did, after we noticed that there’s a problem with that, I went ahead and removed him from the budget process, and took care of it myself with Lt. Colonel Harmison, and met regularly with Ralph Buona, finance chair, and we actually fixed what was going on to the point where within three years after that we returned back $4.5 million to the county coffers. So the budget is a very important issue. I’ve been meeting regularly, every month and every quarter with Mr. Buona to make sure that we stay on track – and that was at my request to make sure that we stay on track, and that we accomplish our objectives within the budget that we have.
Eric Noble rebuttal
I’ll sum it up in two words. This is about transparency and honesty. Five months before the Finance Committee told this sheriff he was over budget: This was his budget presentation [holds up document]. October 16, 2012. Anybody wants to read it, I’ll leave it here. Pages 18, 19, 20, 21, predict already a $1.6 million budget shortfall in overtime. He was in that meeting with Tim Hemstreet. We all were. He heard it, he knew it. He knew it five months before he said he knew it. And we discussed it.
Question: In the current environment involving our nation’s law enforcement officers, there is now and will continue to be a shortage of willing and capable persons applying for law enforcement jobs. What is your approach to staffing – that is, recruitment and selection of personnel – in the Loudoun County Sheriff’s Office, to bring forward the best possible deputies?
Eric Noble answer
A couple things. Number one, our force needs to start reflecting our community, and we need to get into some of our minority communities and recruit deputies there. I’ve mentioned this before: What’s important to us? Empathy and compassion. We’re not always measuring the correct metrics to get the right men and women into the office. There’s a great Mike Rowe saying, if you know Mike Rowe from the Discovery Channel. He says, we have times when we confuse qualifications with competency. You don’t have to have a college degree to be a great deputy. Right now we measure by college degree, prior military experience, prior law enforcement experience. And how many good people are we shutting out? I’d rather have a guy who’s empathetic, compassionate, reflective of our community, and maybe he doesn’t have a college degree – but you know what? That’s A-OK by me, because that person’s going to make a heck of a good law enforcement officer in Loudoun County.
Mike Chapman rebuttal
I want to take care of the people that serve for us, people that are in the military and the people that go out there and put their lives on the line. We won the Virginia Values Veterans award in the bronze and silver categories for hiring far more veterans than actually projected that we would. So we’re doing that. We do look at college education. We do look at …. a variety of backgrounds they bring to the table. We do a very good job, we are doing a lot of outreach to the minority community, and I would say that our hiring ratio is consistent with the community itself.
Question: As the sheriff is the last line of defense for public safety in both domestic and foreign issues: With homegrown terrorists being radicalized in our own country, how will you be working with federal agencies such as the FBI and Homeland Security and other agencies to be briefed on potential homegrown terrorism that may exist in our county?
Mike Chapman answer
Very important question – my opponent does not have a top secret security clearance …. He cannot even engage in conversations with the FBI concerning what’s going on with terrorism. I can. I have members of the executive staff who can as well, so we can get out on the front side of these issues and make sure that we address them long in advance of the problem taking place, not after the issue has taken place. It’s important that we maintain these relationships, it’s important that we work with our counterparts. They have a lot of information that we don’t have and we can’t get unless we have the right clearances. And that’s what we’re trying to do is make sure that we maintain a staff that has top secret security clearances, to get this job done, to protect you and protect me and my family and my kids and everybody out there from any terrorism attack that might take place.
Eric Noble rebuttal
Well this sheriff is flat wrong. And anybody that wants to go talk to special agent Jeff Jones of the Washington field office of the FBI, you feel free to call him. He’ll tell you my clearance was taken because I retired. I can get it back, and if I’m elected I will get it back. I find it ironic that this man’s number two – the person he puts in charge when he’s gone – cannot and will not get a top secret clearance of any kind. What does that speak to your management team? Cannot get a clearance.
Question: In years past, Loudoun County has had a minimum staffing model, which stated that a minimum number of deputies must be out patrolling certain areas of the county. Recently, the Loudoun County Sheriff’s Office has moved to a preferred staffing model, and that is due to this policy where there are times when only one deputy is available to patrol the entire western part of the county, west of Rt. 15. Is this a sufficient deployment of resources to keep our county safe?
Eric Noble answer
The answer is concerning and it’s no. Here’s what we don’t do in Loudoun County; this is what the Sheriff’s Office has not done, and that is identify the model on how they staff field operations. Now I did that in the jail. Talk about a major accomplishment. I went to national institute of correction, we applied their staffing analysis, and now we have a model of staffing at the ADC that is not only bought into by the agency, but by the county administrator and the Board of Supervisors. We’re two years into that plan. Nobody’s done that for field operations. Nobody can identify: Is this an overstaffing model? Is this some hybrid staffing model? Is this a constant staffing model? That’s one of the first problems I’ll tackle when I’m elected sheriff of Loudoun County. And we’re going to be able to give everybody – our board members, our county administrator, our citizens – a model that they understand, how we staff this county. And it’s not going to be one deputy in western Loudoun, I can promise you that.
Mike Chapman rebuttal
In an earlier question, my opponent talked about how we didn’t have enough narcotics detectives out there, and we actually had to pull narcotics detectives from patrol. There’s always a give and take with everything I can do here with our staffing. There’s no real formula to the staffing; I can tell you that in the past year we’ve raised our staffing from about 22 in the field on a given shift, to about 32. I would take issue with the question itself to say that we have one deputy out there in the western end. Not true. I mean, there’s a possibility if everybody’s tied up on calls that that might happen, but generally speaking that’s not true. We do a very good job staffing.
Question: What is your vision for the Sheriff’s Office the next four years?
Mike Chapman answer
One of the things that came up before about working with the Board of Supervisors: We work with the county and we make sure that we’re trying to get what we need for our deputies. We’ve already gotten our deputies some very, very good …. we got them pay increments …. cell phones, we’ve gotten them all kinds of technical equipment upgraded …. we’re always trying to move what we’re doing forward. I have a five year strategic plan we’re unveiling on July 1, we’re putting the final touches on that. We’re working with the Board of Supervisors every step of the way. We make sure that what we’re doing is reasonable and within their budget limits. We also make sure that it’s part of their strategic plan. We work with the county all the way through on this. It’s not just western Loudoun. We can’t just request everything, we have to take it step by step and make sure that what we ask for is consistent with what we need, and we’ll continue to do that going forward. Again, to talk about every unit, and what they’re doing in every single unit is a bit much. However, overall we are progressing forward and we have a good plan to do that.
Eric Noble rebuttal
Thirty seconds isn’t a lot of time to talk about vision but how about this, let’s pivot this agency to an employee-centric agency. Let’s take care of the men and women who take care of you. Let’s do the things I talked about earlier: depoliticizing the position of deputy sheriff. Let’s give them the procedural guarantees that every police officer in Virginia has. And then let’s engage in strategic processes. Why does it take three and a half years for this administration to finally come out with a five year plan? What was going on the first three and a half years, ladies and gentlemen? I’m contending: not a whole lot of planning.
Question: Do you need security clearances to interact with federal agencies to keep Loudoun County in the loop and safe from potential threats, and if so, at what level? Will both candidates be able to pass a background check to obtain such a needed security clearance?
Eric Noble answer
As I addressed before, if anybody doubts the quality of my top secret clearance, just talk to special agent Jeff Jones of the Washington field office of the FBI. I had a top secret clearance that gave me access to both the Washington field office and their satellite office in Manassas. When I retire, guess what? I no longer need to get into those buildings. He’s assured me that when I get back in law enforcement, absolutely I can get that clearance back. But also, do you really need that clearance? Certainly some of his senior staff right now don’t have that clearance. I mentioned unit 2, his chief deputy, the man who’s going to assume command when he’s away on a trip or on vacation – here we are, three and a half years into the administration, and that Lt. Colonel doesn’t have a top secret clearance of any kind. So apparently it’s not quite necessary for the functioning of the agency. But I would contend to you quite frankly, ladies and gentlemen, it is important. It is important, and I can get mine.
Mike Chapman rebuttal
Ladies and gentlemen, we’ve had conversations and we’ve passed information along to the special agent in charge of security programs over at the FBI. I’m not going to argue his point: He’s talking about a GS-13 that runs the security program at the ground level. And I’m going to tell you that Mr. Noble does not have a security clearance and is not likely to ever get another security clearance. I have a top secret and sensitive compartmentalized security clearance. I’m cleared just about all the way up, almost as high as you can go when it comes to sensitive information ….
Question: Please outline the services the Loudoun County Sheriff’s Office provides for elder fraud, elder abuse, and education on such issues. What can be done to improve public safety and services for the elderly?
Mike Chapman answer
As I mentioned before, one of the big programs that we initiated was fraud training for seniors. We’ve gone out to many, many senior locations here to try to tell them what to watch out for. In fact, I was at Ashby Ponds just the other day talking about this very issue. So we’re very, very engaged with that. We have project lifesaver where we work with the elderly and we make sure they get the proper equipment they need and, for example, they might have someone with alzheimer’s who gets lost out there, it’s important for us to be able to find these people. We work very, very closely with the elderly, I’ve been very, very proactive with that. We have regular programs that we go out and we teach to them, and make sure that they’re aware of all the scams that are going on…. Sometimes people pose themselves a law enforcement to try and get money through court appearance and so forth. We do a lot of education in that way. We do a lot to make sure that we’re taking care of our seniors.
Eric Noble answer
I don’t know what better program we have for the elderly than the triad program, and it served this county for a long time, till 2012 when we had a change in the administration. And why the triad program wasted away I don’t know but it did, and that’s a shame. So here’s an idea: Let’s bring triad back. The single best way for uniformed personnel of the Sheriff’s Office to interact with what’s becoming an aging baby boomer population in Loudoun County.
Eric Noble Closing Statement
I want to thank you, ladies and gentlemen, for the opportunity to participate in this forum. You’ve heard me say, this is about proactive, local leadership in our agency and our community. And over 27 years I’ve carved a career in our community, and I have the experience and the knowledge to lead this agency into the future.
As the sheriff of Loudoun County, I will recognize that I’m not the Sheriff’s Office. I’m nothing more than the steward of an agency that was here long before I showed up, and guess what, it’s going to be here long after I leave. Instead, it’s the men and women of this agency who are the heart and soul, and it’s my job to empower them to be able to provide public safety services in a way that we know they’re so capable of. And again, we do that by depoliticizing the position of deputy sheriff, allowing them to be innovative and demonstrate initiative. We do it by offering the very same protections that every other police officer in the commonwealth of Virginia has. We do it by developing processes that are both clear, fair, and transparent. And finally we do it by valuing our civilian employees.
It’s also about leadership in the community, about identifying trends before they explode and developing strategies to address them. It’s about developing three, five and ten year plans, based on solid analysis, and then creating a road map to address the challenges that we know are coming, like the Silver Line, like what we just talked about, the changing demographics of the county.
Ladies and gentlemen, it’s also about shedding budget gimmicks like unallocated vacancy savings and fund balance carry over…Focusing on properly staffing field operations, filling these vacancies, and then properly deploying our personnel. It’s about real transparency by the way, where we engage the public in discussions about how we operate, where we don’t cover up the inevitable miscues that are going to occur, but instead we take ownership of them. We learn from them. And we become better for it.
I’m telling you, when I first started this campaign in November, here’s what I heard loud and clear from the Republican Party: Be united. Stay out of the mud – don’t beat each other up. And yet at our last committee meeting my opponent did just that, and I’m getting tired of listening to it. I’m getting tired of the inaccuracies. I’m getting tired of hearing about events that didn’t occur, or events that are misrepresented. But I want to be a good Republican. And I don’t want us to sling mud. I want to be united, so I’ll continue to do just that, ladies and gentlemen.
I will leave you with one final thought: The senior law enforcement officer in Loudoun County is our Commonwealth’s Attorney Jim Plowman. Jim Plowman has worked with Mike for over three years. Jim Plowman knows about the 91 percent approval rating. Jim Plowman knows everything Mike has talked about tonight. And yet Jim Plowman has endorsed me, Eric Noble, for sheriff. And I really do hope that I can count on your support, too. So thank you all, ladies and gentlemen, God bless you all, and God bless America.
Mike Chapman Closing Statement
Ladies and gentlemen, I want to thank you for attending tonight. I want to ask you to keep in mind that the best predictor of future performance is past performance. That said, I have a history of strong leadership from my time with the Drug Enforcement Administration across the globe, and here at home at the Loudoun County Sheriff’s Office. I have brought …. transparency and integrity. My local, national and global experience has enabled me to generate innovative solutions to apply best practices to address one of the fastest-growing counties in the nation.
We have experienced rapid and unprecedented success. In the past three years my administration has brought crime down 18 percent, to an all time low, and our approval rating has climbed to an all time high of over 91 percent…..
Our attrition rate is a third lower than the county as a whole. We are at eight percent and county employees are at twelve percent. That is an amazing job satisfaction statistic when you consider that law enforcement employees can retire sooner than county employees. Simply put, people like their job and have decided to stay on. That’s probably because our deputies are better trained and better equipped, and their staffing numbers have never been better. Also, we have had only one grievance panel in the past three years, compared to eight in the prior administration. That’s right: The prior administration had eight times the amount of grievances as my administration has had.
Success in this area is because we listen to our employees, we treat them fairly, with dignity and respect, and apply personnel decisions fairly across the board. Our personnel decisions are always made in concert with the county attorney’s office and county human resources.
We have submitted over 120 accomplishments to the county administrator over the past three years. Some of the most noteworthy ones were crisis intervention training, teaching our deputies proper communications skills to deal with the public we serve. You don’t have to look very far to see just how important that actually is. We’ve enhanced our relationships with our state, local and federal counterparts. We just charged a defendant in a drug-related case federally when we were prevented from doing so locally. We will do whatever we can, whatever it takes, to put drug dealers behind bars…. We provided our hardest-working deputies with pay increases, over 200 of them.
We instituted an online reporting system for the convenience of our citizens who need to make a report in a hurry, and cannot wait around for a deputy to show up if the deputy’s tied up. We expanded DARE in middle schools to help children when peer pressure really kicks in and we had a child safety day with over 2,000 visitors last year, and expanded Internet safety training to parents throughout the county so they will know what their children are exposed to. We added a counter-drug element to this, a mental health construction block, and now teach Internet safety to middle and high schoolers throughout the county. We have done a lot.
We received the Virginia Values Veterans silver and bronze star awards for hiring more members of the military ….. received the top cops award, the IACP award, the deputy of the year award for the Internet safety program, and the deputy of the year for crisis intervention …. We promoted leadership and education to our staff for law enforcement executive development programs, and recently contracted to have an online leadership class to further professionalize our staff.
My administration has been one of smart policing, innovative thinking, problem solving, and accomplishment. It’s not been one of smearing others for selfish gain or trying to destroy their reputations – which my counterpart here just admitted in an earlier question that he did. Please stand with me as we move forward for another four years of outstanding service to our citizens. And I ask for your vote on May 2. By the way, I’ll just add that I’ve been endorsed by Barbara Comstock, by Oliver North, by Scott York, and many others, and I would appreciate if you get a chance to do to my Web site and see all the endorsements that I have. Thank you.