Questionnaire: Chris Jones, Loudoun County Sheriff

Questionnaire: Chris Jones, Loudoun County Sheriff

Office Sought: Office of Sheriff

Party Affiliation: Democrat

Previous Offices Held: No previous offices held

Occupation: law-enforcement/criminal justice professional and Trainer

Current Employment: (part-time)-Virginia Community Policing Institute 701 East Franklin St., Suite 1407 Richmond, VA 23219

Previous employment: Community Policing Deputy, Loudoun County Sheriff's Office

Education: B.A., Speech Communications, York College of Pennsylvania, 1983, Graduate Certificate, Public Management, Shenandoah University, 1994. Graduate studies, Administration of Justice, George Mason University, 2000-01.

Community ties: Current President of the Sterling Community Coalition in Sterling Park.  Past President and current Board Member, Northeast Coalition in Leesburg, graduate of Leadership Loudoun, class of 2003.

Endorsements: Fraternal Order of Police, Stewart-Barton Lodge #70 Leesburg, VA,

AFL-CIO Northern Virginia Central Labor Council.

The Loudoun County Sheriff's Office provides law enforcement and crime prevention services to citizens of Loudoun County on a 24-hour basis. The Sheriff's Office conducts around-the-clock patrols, enforces criminal and vehicular laws, responds to emergency calls, investigates crimes, conducts truck inspections and operates the Adult Detention Center, work release programs, court security and civil enforcement.

1. What is your top public-service accomplishment?

Incumbents: Describe the top accomplishment of your last term. Why shouldn’t voters blame you for current problems?

Implementation and facilitation of the Leesburg Police Departments first Narcotics Enforcement Section in 1989.  The creation and implementation of this unit led to a dramatic reduction of narcotics distribution and criminal activity in the northeast quadrant of town.

2. What are the top five problems facing your constituents and what approaches will you use to solve them?

One-growing concern over a reduction in personal safety and "quality of life" changes (communities showing signs of decay, graffiti, litter, transient people detached from the community, fear of multi-cultural diversity and communication barriers) Two, growing fear of crime.  Three, fear of the spread of gang activity, four speeding and other traffic and parking concerns.  Five-juvenile crime and safety concerns.  I will approach all of these concerns with a proactive response through community oriented policing and problem-solving.  Having deputies permanently assigned and stationed in communities will increase our communication with the community.  Together we will address and solve community problems ranging from speeding to graffiti.  We will develop and strengthen partnerships based on trust.  We can't push gang activity out of Loudoun until the people that gangs prey on trust us enough to ask for help.  Through community policing, we can become more of a resource for families and youth by spending time with them in their communities, not just in their classrooms.

3. What qualities, qualifications and characteristics will you bring to this office?

I bring a combination of education, executive level leadership experience and community service to this position.  I hold a graduate level education and have served as a Captain-Field Operations Division Commander with the Leesburg Police Department.  I traveled the country working for the United States Department of Justice-Office of Community Oriented Policing Services as a Grant Monitoring Specialist.  I have been committed to community service in Loudoun County serving and volunteering with youth and community organizations for the past 18 years.  I will bring the qualities of commitment and high energy to the Office of Sheriff.  I have been successful in building relationships with my colleagues and fostering open communication throughout our community.

4. How will voters best distinguish between you and your opponent(s)?

The candidates running for Sheriff represent two distinct "camps".  One camp says that they are most qualified because of years of local service with the Loudoun County Sheriff's Office.  The other camp says they are most qualified because they are from "outside" the organization and bring a higher level of knowledge due to their experience.  I distinguish myself from those two "camps" by representing a balance of both qualities.  I am proud of my 16 plus years of local law enforcement service with the Leesburg Police Department and the Loudoun County Sheriff's Office.  I am equally proud of having the experience of serving at the Federal level with the Department of Justice and at the State level with the Virginia Community Policing Institute.  Coupled with my educational background I possess the highest level of qualifications and diverse experience that distinguish me from the other candidates.

5. Describe the current workforce for the Sheriff's Office. Is it sufficient for fulfilling its pubic safety responsibilities? If not, what is needed and at what cost?

The number of approved full-time employees of the Sheriff's Office has grown from 321 in the year 2000 to 444 in the year 2003.  During the same time period the budget has grown from 19.7 million to over 33 million.  The current staffing is sufficient to provide basic public safety service.  The Sheriff's Office can provide a higher level of service not by requesting more positions but reprioritizing the ones we currently have. My philosophy will be to put an emphasis on placing more Deputies in specifically assigned communities. In doing so, we will be proactively solving problems and thus reducing calls for service.  I will do a full review of all Sheriff's Office staffing to specifically look at reducing duplication of services that other agencies could provide.

6. How difficult is it to recruit sheriff deputies? What is the ideal background for such recruits? What steps has the Sheriff's Office taken to expand recruitment efforts? What more can be done?

Recruiting Sheriff's Deputies has become more competitive in the Washington Metropolitan area in general.  The Sheriff's Office recruits in a very traditional manner.  I want to be more creative in our recruiting efforts.  I want us to go to non-traditional locations and look for people from varied backgrounds and cultural diversities.  The recruit of the 21st century must be a "snapshot" of the community he/she is serving in.  That means he/she has to have excellent communication skills, be creative, and open to diverse and changing cultures.  The days of the "cookie-cutter" mold of ex-military or criminal justice majors only as recruits is over!

7. Explain the current relationship between the Commonwealth's Attorney and the Sheriff's Office. How are the two agencies supposed to interact? In what ways can it be improved?

The current relationship between the Sheriff and the Commonwealth's Attorney is damaged beyond repair.  It has grown and festered since 1996 to the point that they have become personal and professional enemies.  As a result, the men and women of the Sheriff's Office and the citizens of our county suffer.  Instead of an environment of teamwork, resource sharing and open communication that creates successful prosecution of criminals, Loudoun citizens and Deputies are faced with just the opposite.  Change in leadership is the only thing that will repair this disconnect.

8. Explain the process for identifying potentially suicidal inmates at the county Adult Detention Center. Statistically, how does Loudoun compare with other county jails?

Protocols and general orders are in place to identify potentially suicidal inmates.  They call for increased observation and moving the inmate.  I want to look inside and outside the agency for expertise that could enhance our capability of identifying problems or warning signals that inmates might give.  The national average for inmate suicides is 54 for every 100,000 inmates.  In light of the two suicides in March of this year, I would request a review from the U.S. Department of Justice regarding current suicide-prevention policies.  I would be open and willing to implement any recommendations they could provide.

9. What policies and procedures are in place to prevent inappropriate contact between jail staff and inmates? How does such a system break down and what can be done to improve the recruiting or training of department or subcontracted staff in the jail?

There are policies and procedures in place to prevent inappropriate contact.  The key is how do we ensure that they are being followed?  The system breaks down when they are not followed to the letter of the law.  I think the "human" element of a conscious decision to follow or not follow a directive proves that we must hold a very high standard for who we hire to work in our jail, be they a sworn deputy or a civilian.

10. Define community policing and what specific changes in patrol strategies and staffing are required by it?

Community policing is best defined by the four p's.  Partnership development, Problem-solving, Proactive crime prevention and Putting criminals in jail.  The Sheriff's Office needs to have closer ties to our Loudoun communities.  We will accomplish this by assigning deputies to specific communities.  They will work out of the community offices, they will be accessible to the community and they will focus on jointly solving community problems BEFORE they lead to criminal events.  My vision is to supplement our patrol staffing with a major increase in our community policing section so that we can better serve our neighborhoods.  The community policing section must be infused with our patrol section.  I will implement a team concept to achieve this goal.

11. Describe the current crime and drug prevention activities conducted by the Sheriff's Office through its relationship with the public schools. How has it grown or declined?

The Sheriff's Office has a strong School Resource Officer program and is still active with the Drug Abuse Resistance Education program in our school system.  As part of the first training class of DARE Officers in the state of Virginia in 1987, I hold the DARE program very near to my heart.  I want to ensure that DARE today is as effective as it was then.  I will conduct a thorough review of the program with Loudoun school officials, parents and our DARE Instructors to assure that our prevention programs are keeping pace with current needs.

12. How many active Neighborhood Watch programs are operating? What role should the Sheriff's Office play in expanding Neighborhood Watch — and at what cost?

In March of 2002, the Sheriff's Office informed the U. S. Attorney General John Ashcroft that there were 65 Neighborhood Watch programs in Loudoun County.  The Attorney General then remarked that the county's neighborhood watch program was "a model for the Nation".  The Feb. 12-18 2003 edition of the Loudoun Connection states however, "before Sept 11, 2001 the county had 5 active Neighborhood Watch programs compared to 16 active programs now".  Hardly a model for the nation!  What is the truth?  How many Neighborhood Watch programs do we really have and are they effective?  This should not be happening, the Sheriff must be directly involved in recruiting and maintaining active neighborhood watch programs.  The Sheriff must do more than place two orange N.W. signs and leave.  This alone is giving communities a false sense of security.

13. How have the new demands of "homeland security" affected the Sheriff's Office? How has the office's priorities changed since 9/11?

My fear is that the demands of homeland security have not been recognized by the Sheriff.  The priorities of the Sheriff's Office have not shifted enough.  We are still not coordinating and sharing resources and information with other public safety service providers to the levels we should.  I plan on accepting offers from officials of the USDOJ Office of Domestic Preparedness and other agencies to conduct cost free site visits.  The Sheriff's Office must be open and willing to accept recommendations for improvement in this critical area.

14. How do you address the perception that the Sheriff's Office is its own fiefdom, rewarding politically astute deputies at the disadvantage of other deputies?

I think the whole process of electing a Sheriff opens the door to that perception.  As long as the element of politics exists at the Sheriff's level people will feel that it transcends through the whole organization.  The key is to be sensitive to that thought process and try to eliminate situations that "hint" of favoritism both within the organization and out.  It is important to have a clear promotional process and evaluation process for our deputies.  Standards for them to achieve must be clear and the Sheriff and his commanders must follow the standards with fairness and consistency.