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Sheriff's Office Trims School Programs

August 2, 2002

The Loudoun County Sheriff’s Office plans to trim two school programs to boost the Criminal Investigations Division, a response to what the Sheriff’s Office views as a shortage in funding from the county’s fiscal year 2003 budget.

The programs operate between the Sheriff’s Office and the public schools.

“It isn’t an ideal situation, but it is a manageable situation,” said Wayde Byard, school press officer for the Loudoun County Public Schools.

Four deputies from the middle school resource officer program will be redeployed to the Criminal Investigations Division, three to investigate major crimes and the fourth to work on narcotics-related crimes. The program’s four remaining middle-school resource officers will work part-time at each of two schools, while another five high school resource officers will continue working full-time at the county’s high schools.

“We’ll still have school resource officers at the middle schools. They’ll just be splitting schools, so there will be coverage there,” Byard said. “It gives police presence on campus,” he said, adding that the school resource officer program allows students to build camaraderie and trust with law enforcement. “We’re still glad we have the DARE program at the elementary school level.”

THE SHERIFF’S Office plans to reduce the Drug Abuse Resistance Education (DARE) program from 17 to 10 sessions at the elementary schools and remove it entirely from the middle schools. The eight deputies teaching the crime prevention program will continue working at the schools and not be deployed elsewhere.

“With the growing number of middle schools and elementary schools in the county, it was starting to take a toll on the program,” said Kraig Troxell, public information office for the Sheriff’s Office. “If the program isn’t growing with [the county’s growth], it’s difficult to continue the program as is.”

Sheriff Stephen Simpson described the programs as “proactive and good programs.”

“Rather than doing the programs halfway and not being effective in neither the middle schools or the elementary schools, we decided to pull our resources to make it a consistent program in the elementary schools,” Simpson said.

The Sheriff’s Office made the program cuts and redeployed staff to address an increase in major crime during the past year, including crimes against people and against property, financial crimes and computer-related crimes. At the same time, the cuts addressed the Board of Supervisors not fully funding the Sheriff’s Office budget request and request for new hires, as stated in a press release from the Sheriff’s Office.

“I don’t recall Sheriff Simpson during the budget process saying an action like this would be necessary … based on the budget we approved,” said Supervisor Chuck Harris (D-Broad Run). “As I voiced during the budget process, the Sheriff’s Office justified their budget needs least effectively of the departments that came before us. The rationale for some of the increases he was asking for were not well substantiated.”

“That opportunity was not provided,” Simpson said in response. “You don’t get to talk unless they ask a question.”

Simpson added: “This is not the sheriff playing politics. This is not politics. This is reality. To say it is politics is wrong. I thought the citizens had a right to know why we had to make these changes.”

THE SHERIFF’S OFFICE requested 128 new positions, including 54 deputies to help the office reach the national standard of one deputy on staff per 1,000 residents, along with 15 criminal investigators and two DARE officers. The Board of Supervisors approved 13 new positions, including two criminal investigators but not any DARE officers.

“When you have such a high demand for reactive services, a proactive program is the only place you can pull resources from,” Simpson said.

Supervisor Mark Herring said the cuts are a “disappointment” considering the county’s budget provides full funding for the two school programs. “I wish we had more resources we could provide” said Herring (D-Leesburg).

The board increased local funding for the Sheriff’s Office budget by 95 percent in the last three years, an overall increase of 70 percent given a drop in state funding, Herring said. “That’s a much faster rate than population growth,” he said. The county’s population increased from 169,000 in 2000 as reported in the 2000 U.S Census to an estimated 205,000 this year.

“We could have set a $1.15 tax rate and given everyone everything, but obviously we need to balance things,” said Supervisor William Bogard (R-Sugarland Run). The tax rate for fiscal year is $1.05.

Even so, “There’s hope that the programs can return to their original capacity in the future,” Troxell said.