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The State of NoVa
Posted at 06:30 AM ET, 05/07/2012

New Loudoun Sheriff Mike Chapman makes fast progress after taking office


New Loudoun County Sheriff Mike Chapman in his Leesburg office. The former longtime DEA agent completed a long list of tasks in his first 100 days in office. (Tom Jackman - The Washington Post)

Federal and local law enforcement authorities sometimes don’t get along. They have different missions, wear different uniforms. Sometimes they work well together and sometimes there is massive distrust between, say, a local police department and the FBI or ATF.

That’s why it’s been interesting to watch longtime Drug Enforcement Administration Agent Mike Chapman take over the Loudoun County Sheriff’s Office. Though he spent several years at the beginning of his career as an officer in Howard County, the next 23 years were spent as an agent and supervisor in assignments around the world with the DEA.

But he ousted longtime incumbent Steve Simpson in the November election, installed a new team of commanders in December, and then embarked on a long list of tasks to accomplish in his first 100 days, and checked off many of them. The list included launching a dedicated SWAT team and finally combining all the county’s prisoners into one jail after many delays, which had wasted millions of taxpayer dollars while deputies hired to run the jail sat idle.

I sat down with him the other day to talk about the transition from fed to local. He seemed to be enjoying himself, and his “100 Days Accomplishment List” is no small feat for an outsider taking over both a police department and a county jail, tasks which are usually split between two agencies.

On that list, in addition to consolidating the jail and the SWAT team, were expanding anti-drug DARE training into middle schools, intensive reviews of cold cases, and decentralizing burglary, community resource and crime prevention deputies by moving them out to the district stations.

Whether it’s federal or local law enforcement, “it’s all about leadership,” Chapman said. He brought in Chris Harmison from Fairfax County as his chief deputy. Harmison had been a Fairfax police officer and a deputy in both Fairfax and Loudoun counties, and “had probably the best insight on the ground,” Chapman said. “What the troops were thinking, what their needs were.”

He left Maj. Robert Buckman in charge of operations, but brought in former DEA Agent Richard Fiano to oversee criminal investigations, and former FBI Agent John Fraga to head special operations. Fiano formerly was regional director of DEA operations in Europe and Africa, and also oversaw counter-narcotics enforcement in Pakistan, Afghanistan and the Persian gulf.

Fraga supervised FBI task forces that responded to crime scenes and expanded the bureau’s forensic response at not only crime scenes but underwater searches and hazardous materials situations. Chapman said both men had supervised large numbers of agents over the years and would be able to use their leadership experience in Loudoun.

With his people in place, Chapman turned to his tasks. And during his long campaign for the job, he had heard from many citizens and deputies about what needed to be done. He listened. He took notes. And after being sworn in, he went to work.

One key move was speeding up the completion of the second wing of the jail several months ahead of schedule, Chapman said. Dozens of deputies had been hired to work the new wing, and were paid $3.5 million in the second half of 2011 with little to do. Now they are on the job, and Chapman and new corrections commander Maj. Ricky Frye also are launching video visitation, in which jail visitors see inmates via video rather than face-to-face, which won’t make visitors happy but will save time and money spent moving prisoners around the jail.

Chapman also won approval for deputies who work nights to receive ”night differential”pay, which is standard in law enforcement and many other 24-hour businesses, but hadn’t been paid to Loudoun deputies. He also has overhauled the department’s website and his accessibility — his direct e-mail address is there — with the help of a new spokeswoman, Liz Mills, a civilian who is on Chapman’s leadership team. And he preserved the funding for a new western Loudoun patrol station, to replace a substandard current station.

Looking ahead, Chapman wants to work with citizens on something called “Reverse 911:” Targeted robocalls or text messages to neighborhoods and crime watch groups when a crime has just been reported and a suspect is on the loose. Chapman also wants to recruit more from the many colleges around Loudoun County.

Chapman is the only publicly elected police chief in Northern Virginia: the chiefs in Fairfax, Prince William, Alexandria and Arlington are appointed by county or city leaders. It gives him a different constituency to please, he said, with the need for “citizens to feel a connection with law enforcement,” rather than pacify political bosses.

So he’s out having regular coffee meetings with citizens, listening, planning. Jim Plowman, the Loudoun commonwealth’s attorney, said he was impressed with Chapman’s energy and initiative so far. We’ll see if he can maintain the energy, and keep pumping out long lists of achievements.

By  |  06:30 AM ET, 05/07/2012

Categories:  Loudoun County, Police | Tags:  Mike Chapman, Loudoun County Sheriff's Office

 
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