This is the second of three interviews Equality Loudoun is conducting with the candidates for Loudoun County Sheriff. The first interview, with Republican Greg Ahlemann, came about because of a rumor about his tattoo that was posted here in a comment. Having given Greg a forum to address that rumor and answer other questions, it seemed only fair to contact the other candidates as well.
Sheriff Simpson decided to declare his candidacy as an Independent after being defeated by Greg Ahlemann at the Republican convention.
We were highly critical of the excessive law enforcement response to the Soulforce Equality Ride earlier this year, so we started by talking about that.
Q: I’d like to start with the question I asked you over at Loudoun Force, about the massive police presence for the Soulforce Equality Ride visit to Patrick Henry College. A lot of things have been said about that, and I did ask your opponent, Mr. Ahlemann, about it because I wanted to know if he would have handled that differently in some way. And what he had to say was that because it was the political season, it was a media display by you. He says he would have put most of the guys around back ““ and I’m not sure he’s aware that there were also a bunch of guys around back, in addition to the big display out in front of the school”¦so what was the actual reason for that show of force?
A: Well, if you look at the show of force, that wasn’t the Sheriff’s Office. We had been asked by Purcellville ““ Purcellville’s the one that set it up. Purcellville asked the Sheriff’s Office, and Purcellville asked the State Police. The State Police philosoply ““ apparently there had recently been an incident at the Pentagon where they were kind of caught short, so they decided that if they were ever asked to come to a jurisdiction to assist with any crowd control or any demonstration or anything like that, they have a set number of people they’re going to send no matter how many you ask for, so that’s why they had so many troopers out there”¦then we had the command unit, we had some of our people, the folks we were going to have inside, and that’s pretty much where they stayed. We had no idea how many people the State Police were going to show up with. The reason we had some concern about having enough presence there was that there was some chatter that had apparently been going on, that led us to believe maybe there was going to be some other folks that was going to be protesting against Equality Loudoun”¦and what was the name of the group?
Q: Soulforce, the Soulforce Equality Ride. This was their visit, and we very deliberately took a support role, because we knew that their objective was to have dialogue with the Patrick Henry community. So what we did was to arrange for people in the community to just provide logistical support”¦and then we also hosted a reception [for both parties] that night, and we had 60 people at that reception in Purcellville.
A: Well, if you talk to any of the people with the group, with the organization [Soulforce], we had been talking to them, we had a dialogue with them several days in advance”¦
Q: My understanding was, yeah, that you had”¦that it was the Civil Disturbance Unit of the Loudoun County Sheriff’s Office that coordinated with Soulforce, you know, knowing that this was going to be a very choreographed act of civil disobedience, which is exactly what it was”¦
A: Right. And we knew what their intentions were, we had no reason to believe that they were going to do something other than what they told us they were going to do. Our concern was, who else was going to show up and could try to disrupt this process, and could try to get involved, try to engage them out on the street, because they had already been told by Patrick Henry that they were not allowed on the property, if they wanted to talk they could set up a meeting at some point”¦I think they were going to meet somewhere else, is what is was, we can talk, but it’s got to be somewhere else”¦
Q: Well, they wanted to set up a “debate” on a sort of unrelated topic”¦
A: So, whatever their reasons are”¦what our concern was was someone else coming and trying to confront Soulforce, and turn it into an issue. We had everything very well planned with Soulforce, we had talked with them a number of different times, we knew the process, we knew what they were going to do, we knew at some point there was going to be a designated person or two who was going to come onto the property for the purposes of being arrested, for their, as a show of”¦
Q: Which is the point of civil disobedience.
A: Exactly. So we knew everything that was going to take place, and we’d already worked out with them how we were going to do it”¦so everything was done, I think, we did everything we could possibly do to make this thing go as smoothly as possible.
Q: Yeah, and we have no criticism at all of the way that any of the law enforcement personnel did their jobs, that wasn’t a problem at all, everyone was very professional and respectful.
A: And the political side of it, he [Ahlemann] talks about it as grandstanding”¦like I said, I didn’t organize the thing, I didn’t set the number of people, I didn’t”¦they did want me, the Chief there [Purcellville] had asked me to have our public information officer be part of it, so that’s why we had the area set up for the press, and I made comments to some of the different press members, I know the Chief was interviewed, several different people were interviewed there, so I think”¦I can only control my people, and the numbers, we felt that we had”¦
Q: There wasn’t any coordination between your office and the State troopers?
A: Well, we were told that they were going to bring their”¦I think they had requested ten, and we ended up with 60.
Q: From what I understand, there were a total of 112 law enforcement personnel there, including the ones around back.
A: That could be”¦I think the state ended up with 60 or 70″¦but a lot of them were staged somewhere else, because we said this is just unbelievable”¦
Q: Well, a lot of them were obviously out front there, in this very public display of force, and the perception was that this was kind of a media stunt done at taxpayer expense, at the behest of Patrick Henry College, because they wanted to create the impression that they were under siege.
A: I don’t think so”¦and for whatever thoughts and viewpoints they may have had, I think this, I don’t know whose decision it was, I can’t answer that, because I don’t know whose decision it was to say ‘ok, you state troopers line up across there,’ we had no intention of doing that initially, we didn’t have the resources to do that, we could have gotten there if we wanted to, but that’s not what our intention was. We felt like we had everything worked out with Soulforce, and we had resources available in case someone else showed up, that’s when our guys would come out from inside; there was a very limited number of Sheriff’s Office people out front. Now, whose decision it was to line the state police up, I don’t believe it was the Chief of Police in Purcellville, I think it was probably the commander from the State Police, to be honest with you ““ but I don’t have an answer to that, that was not our, that was not my call.
Q: Ok, so I saw where”¦to a reporter for the Times-Mirror, you did make reference to this internet chatter, as the reason for thinking that these other, these outside groups might show up, and then, it seems that there were some people, maybe connected in some way to the Sheriff’s department here, who were saying that they had received responses from [this office] confirming that there was intelligence suggesting that a thousand people, or thousands of protesters, might show up, and that this was based on this internet chatter.
A: I don’t remember hearing numbers of thousands, no, I remember hearing that there was concern that some other groups may show up, and I didn’t have, I never got any numbers that I can remember.
Q: Well, can you, are you willing to discuss what the source of this information was? How did this internet chat come to your attention?
A: It was brought to my attention by someone within our department, I don’t remember if it was within the criminal investigation section, or whether”¦I don’t remember. I was briefed by our person who was putting this together form our perspective, and they said that they had been told that their was concerns about somebody else showing up. I’d have to research that to find out exactly.
Q: And that concern, from what I heard, was both possibly other groups supporting Soulforce, and possibly counter-protesters, anti-gay groups.
Q: And the only thing I’ve been able to find anywhere was an announcement on the website of the local PFLAG chapter, which ““ do you know what that is? The Parents, Friends and Family of Lesbians and Gays, which is basically a bunch of moms who have gay children, and they’re trying to talk to other parents, and, and convince them not to throw away their kids because they’re gay, and this is not in any sense a radical group ““ and I”¦just the perception, because of all this, like I said, is that it was something done to create an impression for Patrick Henry College.
A: Well, I can assure you, certainly from my perspective that’s not the case ““ I had no control over the number of troopers, how they were assigned or where they were standing ““ I thought we had things pretty well set in place, and like I said, we were not expecting a problem, we certainly weren’t expecting any issues from Soulforce or any of their supporters; our concern was somebody else showing up who, who were against them. We didn’t know what may have been set in motion by, maybe even some of the students inside Patrick Henry, whether they had called people, we didn’t know, we were just concerned about an anti-gay organization, even just a handful of people showing up and creating a problem.
Q: Because I assume that you familiarized yourself with Soulforce and previous visits, because they’ve made dozens of visits to other campuses, and nothing like that has ever happened ““ I mean, I’m very glad it didn’t happen, but”¦
A: We didn’t want to be the jurisdiction where something happened, and there was no preparation.
Q: Well, that’s certainly understandable. But then, the other part of this for me is, given your discussion of community policing, as the approach that you take department-wide, as a philosophy, where you talk about working with community groups ““ I mean, Equality Loudoun is the community group that represents the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community here. And my concern is that we were never contacted, and there are two reasons that I think we should have been contacted. One is, we maybe could have helped you assess the situation, if we had heard that something like that was going on. And the other is that, if the expectation was that anti-gay groups were going to come, we would have like to have known about that, I mean just to be informed, because what that meant was that our community was being threatened. And like I said, we had 60 people at that reception that night, and we had no idea, there was no indication that there could have been any trouble.
A: Well, like I said, we didn’t have any active threats, no one had said ‘we’re going to show up and we’re going to do this or that,’ it was just our, we wanted to be prepared in case something happened”¦your organization was already involved, because you hosted things, and you”¦
Q. Well, exactly. That’s my point, that we’re obviously the community resource, so why not utilize us? “¦I mean, in hindsight, would you do anything different here?
A: I guess what would be good would be to establish some contacts, whether it’s yourself or someone else within the organization that we could reach out to, yes. I think that would be a good idea. I think it would be a very good idea.
Q: Ok, well, we would like to do that. And I guess, related to that, I had heard also that there is now a unit within the Sheriff’s Office that acts as a liaison of some sort to the GLBT community, and I understand that this is a relatively recent development. Can you tell me about that?
A: Sgt. Joanna Perot [spelling unclear] is one of the ones kind of spearheading this, and we’ve had some conversations in the past about an organization within the Sheriff’s Office, or some liaisons within the Sheriff’s Office to do just that. She’s kind of the frontrunner, I guess, of that program ““ I’ve kind of left it up to her to develop, and that’s where it stands; it’s not really a formalized policy yet ““ but there is an organization, a group [that] wants to put this together, she came to me with the idea, I thought it was a good idea, and that’s kind of where it’s been left at this point. I’d have to check with her to find out where she is with it.
Q: Do you know how that came about? I’ve never had any indication that there’s a problem with anti-gay prejudice with people in the department.
A: I got the impression that it was more proactive than anything else; we do have a lot of officers within the department”¦gay and lesbian officers within the agency, and maybe she looked at that as something proactive, I imagine. Because I have never had anyone make a complaint, or comment to me that it’s an issue, that they have felt threatened or intimidated, or harassed or whatever else.
Q: Since we’re on that [topic], is there anything that Equality Loudoun could do as an organization that could help with that, in terms of training, education”¦?
A: I don’t know what there is to offer, I guess, I guess what I’d like to do is maybe talk to Joanna and find out if she’s reached out to anyone in your organization or not, I’m not real sure, but that’s certainly a good place to start.
Q: Great. Now let’s talk about this election”¦you’ve taken the kind of unusual step of walking away from the Republican Party, and running as an Independent after seemingly endorsing your opponent Mr. Ahlemann as the Republican nominee. And then you’ve also said some pretty provocative things, like “some people want to turn Loudoun County into 1940’s Germany.” And I gather from this that you have some pretty strong feelings about Mr. Ahlemann and about the direction that law enforcement in this county could go if he were elected. Can you talk about what your specific fears are?
A: If we can kind of start with the convention, because that’s, he has talked about, and I know the Republican Party is talking more about this pledge thing, and making a real big deal of this pledge. I never endorsed him at the convention. I conceded the fact that he won the nomination, he is now the Republican nominee, but I never said I endorse this guy. I could not in good conscience pledge, I could not in good conscience walk away from this department, walk away from this community out here, and take the chance of turning law enforcement over to someone who, first of all, has no supervisory experience, no administrative experience, he’s got very limited experience in training – has no interest in really doing this job, didn’t even want to be a supervisor”¦his goal in life was to retire as a motorcycle cop in the Sheriff’s Office after 25 years – and has done nothing to prepare himself for a supervisory role and administrative position. Someone who, who’s very ““ what’s a good way to put it ““ he’s not very tolerant of anyone who doesn’t look like him, and believe like him, and act like him; he’s very vocal about that with the things he says”¦
Q: Have you seen that as someone who had him under your command, I mean, is there evidence of that in practice?
A: Not that I saw when he was with the department. I know his father, I’ve known his father for many years, I’ve known him, obviously I hired him when he came to work here, some years ago; the tattoo was a more recent thing, and I didn’t find out what his real intentions were with that thing until after he left.
Q: You mean with the tattoo?
A: Yeah ““ he had a website established, where he had a picture of the tattoo on t-shirts, he was selling t-shirts, and on there he made comments about”¦he never mentioned the Loudoun County Sheriff’s Office, but he talked about being a deputy Sheriff in the fastest-growing county in the nation, and all this stuff to set up exactly who he was and where he was, and that he was not free to speak his religion in uniform to people in the community, so in order to basically put it in their face, he had it tattooed on his forearm. And he said he would write 100 to 200 tickets a month, and everybody he stopped who had to sign his tickets had to look at his forearm as he stood there at their window. So that kind of in-your-face thing I didn’t appreciate, but that didn’t come out until December, when he was about to quit, and even before he quit, this website appears. And he said something on this website about corruption within the agency, or something like that; and being the administrator and not knowing of corruption, of what he’s talking about, that’s when I had an internal affairs investigator go and talk to him, which is when he said ‘I’ve been investigated because of my beliefs.’ Well no, you weren’t investigated because of your beliefs, you were investigated because you made allegations of corruption within my agency. If you know about something going on that I don’t know about, I need to know about it so I can fix it, but I can’t fix something if I don’t know it’s broken. So if you’re going to be out here running your mouth about corruption, I need to know what you’re talking about. He took offense at that ““ he thought we were challenging him because of who he was, and what his beliefs were”¦and that’s got nothing to do with it, I want to know what’s the corruption you’re talking about.
Q: So did you ever find out?
A: Well, he, his view of corruption was, discipline that was dealt out, if he disagreed with it, it was wrong, just because he disagreed with it doesn’t mean it’s wrong. He doesn’t know all the details behind it, all the facts behind disciplinary actions taken against different people, but when we take disciplinary action, it goes through the County Attorney’s office, through the County Human Resources office, we play by their rules and regulations, so everything we do goes through the county chain ““ I just don’t willy-nilly hand out discipline to people. We sign an agreement at the beginning of my term that I play by their rules, so”¦he accuses me of favoritism and corruption, these are the big buzzwords that he’s using, and the reality of it is, it is not corruption [just because] he disagrees with it.
Q: Is he making allegations that people were being disciplined on the basis of their beliefs also?
A: [The allegation is that] they’re being disciplined based on who they are, and whose friends they are, rather than”¦he’s basically alleging unfair treatment. That some people, because they’re friends with a Major, for example, they’re getting preferential treatment over someone else. But that isn’t true, he doesn’t know the details behind a case, I can’t legally go to him and tell him what the details are”¦you’re going by rumor, and your own thoughts, what you think happened, or what somebody else says they think happened, but the reality of it comes out in the investigation, the results of that investigation are taken to the County Attorney’s office, to Human Resources, and everybody’s in the loop on decisions that are made as far as discipline goes, whether somebody’s going to be demoted or fired or whatever. I’ve proven over the years that even people who are friends of mine, who I’ve worked with over the years here in the department, in some cases had to be demoted, in some cases fired, and in some cases prosecuted. So, I don’t play those kind of games ““ so when he starts talking about corruption, let’s find out what exactly it is that you’re talking about.
So that’s how we got into that. Now, I’m sure you’ve probably seen the newspaper ads that his father puts out”¦
Q: Oh, yes. That’s how we ended up doing the interview with him in the first place ““ because when we blogged about that first ad that his father ran, someone posted anonymously on our blog a rumor about the tattoo, saying Greg Ahlemann is racist and homophobic, and he won’t show his tattoo to anyone.
A: Well, he still won’t show it; in fact he had a press conference”¦
Q: Well, he showed it to us. Here’s what happened, he came up to us, to Equality Loudoun, at the 4th of July parade, introduced himself and showed us the tattoo, because of that thing that appeared on our blog; and then just recently he contacted us, and said, you know, you have this inaccurate statement about me on your blog, and asked us to correct it. So what I did was invite him to come talk about his tattoo, and I asked him if I could post a picture of it, and he wouldn’t allow me to do that, but he did talk about it.
A: He had a press conference the other day, and he wouldn’t let anybody photograph it ““ he showed it apparently, very quickly, but wouldn’t let anybody photograph it, and since the campaign began in December, all the way through July, August, all through the heat, he never wore short sleeved shirts anywhere. I think, and I was asked about it by the Times-Mirror the other day, and about tattoos; I don’t have one, and I don’t care who has one, a lot of people have them, men, women, everybody, and I don’t have an issue with that, we don’t have a policy that says you can’t have them. We’re talking about it, because we’ve had some applicants that had both arms completely covered, with skulls, and one guy had a snake, snakehead coming up out of the eye of the skull, stuff like that, and you’re talking about somebody that you’re going put out into the community in my uniform, with skulls and, you know, I’ve got an issue with that.
Anyway, I don’t take offense to the tattoo. What I take offense to is what I read on his website, where he’s basically sticking it in their face.
Q: Which has now been taken down.
A: Yeah, well, he took it down right after he announced he was going to run for Sheriff. I have a copy of it that somebody had run off [and said] have you seen this, and that’s kind of what prompted that investigation. But I’m not offended by the tattoo. What makes me angry, I guess, or upsets me is hearing later, reading on here that as he’s writing his ticket”¦he’s putting it in people’s face, making them see it whether they want to hear it or not. And that’s what I have a problem with.
Q: And what he told me ““ and I asked him about that ““ and what he told me was”¦well, we talked about the convention, we talked about some of the stories that came out of the convention”¦of people using racist epithets towards other delegates, and saying that if Greg Ahlemann is elected Sheriff, he’s going to get all the sp*** out of Loudoun County, things like that. And he, of course, he disavowed all of that, and said he doesn’t want his campaign associated with any of that, which I would expect any decent person to do.
A: But he’s never done anything to change that.
Q: And what I told him, I’m concerned, not so much about him, but I’m concerned about the climate that’s being created, where that kind of thing seems to be perceived as acceptable.
A: When you have a candidate who’s making promises throughout the eastern end of the county, within a couple years he’s going to eliminate gangs in Loudoun County, and eliminate illegal immigrants in Loudoun County ““ how are you going to do that?
Q: Well, he told me exactly the opposite; he told me that no one should expect that these problems are going to be solved in a four year term, and that if people think that, they’re wrong, and so”¦
A: This is all damage control now, because he’s realizing”¦I think, see, he’s been a one-issue person since December. And that’s all he’s talked about, he’s talked about this immigration thing, and these people I talk about ““ him, and Delgaudio, and these people down in Sterling there, their spreading this misinformation; he got called on it at the League of Women Voter’s debate”¦where he made the comment about the school children, and the money we could save, and here’s your new jail, and when that guy [Don Eaves of Loudoun Force] came up and asked ‘where do you get your numbers from,’ and he basically had to admit that he made them up”¦well, that’s what he does with this stuff, he’s got his father’s ability as a preacher, and he can tell you, convincingly, there’s x number of kids in the school, there’s this, there’s that, and here’s how much it’s costing”¦
Q: But that’s not a law enforcement issue”¦
A: I know it’s not. See, to make a comment, when he’s telling these people down there”¦one of the biggest complaints that we hear is overcrowding; ‘we’ve been living in this house for 20 years now, and next door to me I’ve got 30 people living in the house, there’s ten cars parked in the yard, they’re partying all day, at all hours ““ now if it’s a party and they’re making noise, we can deal with that, but we can’t deal with the fact that there’s 30 people living in that house.
Q: And there’s two zoning inspectors for the whole county.
A: Yeah. And that’s what, I’ve said publicly to the county, that’s what they need to deal with, that’s what they need to look at. And those are the complaints we’re getting. He’s leading these people to believe that it is a law enforcement problem, and he’s going to fix it. Well, you can’t fix it. I don’t have any authority to knock on doors and find out who’s living in this house and if they’ve got the right to be here. But Zoning can do it ““ Zoning, housing and occupancy, Health department, whatever it be, those are the people that need to be dealing with this issue. Now if they need us to assist for some reason, if they find criminal activity or whatever, then we have a right to go in and deal with whatever we need to deal with. But I don’t have the authority to knock on the door, and neither would he, and neither does any local law enforcement. Local law enforcement”¦you get these comments, ‘well I thought being in the country illegally was against the law,’ and that’s, these people are trying to get people to believe that they’re going to fix all this stuff, and it’s not. It is a civil violation of a federal immigration statute.
Q: And [participation in] ICE doesn’t change that.
A: No, and they’re the only ones that have the authority to deal with that. I don’t. Local law enforcement can’t. A local judge does not have the authority to deport. And when I tell people that, we take people in [who are illegal]”¦the next morning, I have to let them go. And people don’t like that. They think I can hold them forever; well, I legally can’t hold them forever. Unless ICE puts a retainer on them, I’ve got to let them go. So there’s this misinformation going around, and there’s promises being made that can’t be kept because they’re illegal in the first place. And I guess that’s problem I have; I think this discussion needs to be had, it needs to be had with the federal government, and the local government”¦I look forward to having this discussion after the election is over with, because I think you’ll get better information, more accurate information when you take out the hype and take out the political rhetoric, and get down to the meat of the situation and deal with what needs to be dealt with without all this hype.
Q: But still, what, in your mind ““ if he [Ahlemann] were elected, what specifically do you think would happen? Because you also said, in the interview with Loudoun Force, you talked about how there’s a lot of interpretation and a lot of latitude in how the law enforcement mission is accomplished; and you were talking about how some people jump up and down and hype up the immigration issue and politicize it”¦and when I talk about those things, when I talked to Greg about my concerns about those folks who have what I described as a vigilante attitude, like what you’re talking with people who want something done right now, and they aren’t real concerned about things like due process rights, and racial profiling, and they just kind of dismiss that as red herrings, I’m talking about other citizens, like some of the people who speak for Help Save Loudoun, and correct me if I’m wrong, but you seem to be talking about kind of the climate in which people are performing their duties in law enforcement, when you talk about the interpretation and latitude. Do you believe that there are some of these elements within the Sheriff’s Office currently, who would be emboldened, or is it something else? Or are you thinking that maybe there would be new deputies hired who would be more in agreement with that attitude?
A: Well, I don’t know”¦I think that someone who works in an agency is going to go in the direction that the administration wants them to go in; I’m concerned about the message that comes out of this office. The message that comes out of here and the direction that’s given to everyone in this agency needs to be clear, it needs to be direct, it needs to be fair, it needs to be”¦when people ask me, I guess a good way to sum it up is, you’ve got division commanders and all these people doing all these different jobs within the agency, what is your most important role as Sheriff? I think my most important role within this department is setting the tone. How we operate, how we look, how we dress, how we don’t dress, how we treat people, how we don’t treat people, how we talk to people, how we don’t talk to people ““ the manner in which we deal with people every day and how we conduct our business every day. And that message has to come from this office, and I have to set the tone. It took a lot of work and a lot of years to get to where we are reputation-wise, because we didn’t have the best reputation in the late ’80s to the mid ’90s when I took office. We didn’t have a very good reputation, not just in the county, but in the region as well, among law enforcement agencies or citizens or anybody else. And we worked very hard to build a good relationship and a good reputation, and take it very personal when somebody steps outside of that, and tries to bring negative to the Sheriff’s Office, because it only takes one person in uniform out here saying something, and if that’s your first encounter with the Sheriff’s Office, that’s going to be your impression of everybody who wears that uniform, and I have a big issue with that.
The people, the rank and file of this agency, is going to pretty much step in the direction of the mission of the agency. That’s why the message that comes out of this office concerns me. And if it’s left in the hands of someone who doesn’t have the background, the training, the experience, the knowledge to run this department, those kinds of people can be easily swayed in one direction or another. I know his father, I have been told he made comments, at a fund-raiser for Jill Vogel in Winchester, one of my employees was over there and heard him say ‘my son’s running for Sheriff in Loudoun County, and when he gets elected, he and I are going to take over Loudoun and straighten it out.’ So, other influence that may come out of here, that may be put upon someone who lacks the experience and knowledge to run this agency ““ how are they going to be influenced? What direction are they going to go in? And the message that comes out of here is the message that the guys on the street hear. They don’t know where this message is coming from, or what influences are in here, they just know what they hear and what they’ve been told by their Sheriff and by their supervisors. I’m concerned, that in an effort to keep campaign promises of ‘cleaning the place up,’ ‘cleaning Sterling Park up,’ the tone of the message that’s given to the deputies is that we’re going to find out who is in this community illegally, and we’re going to deal with them. Now, how do you do that without profiling? How do you do that without going up to everybody and asking them for I.D.? How are you going to accomplish that, because right now we deal with criminals. When somebody commits a crime, we deal with them. If they happen to be illegal, we pass that on and they’re dealt with in the federal system or they’re not, whatever ““ but we can’t, and that’s the 1940 Germany I’m talking about, about everybody having to carry papers and whenever asked by one of the Sheriff’s deputies ‘let me see your papers,’ that’s unacceptable. And that’s what I’m afraid is the direction this department’s going to go in, and you’re going to have a lot of citizens, that if you don’t look lily-white, an American, you’re going to be subject to carrying papers with you all the time to prove who you are. That’s unacceptable. And would it ever get to that extreme? I don’t know. I would hope not. But when we have someone who has the intolerance he has, and that his father has ““ I mean, look at the things that his father has said in years past about the Saudi Academy”¦that all Muslim children are future terrorists and things like that ““ that’s intolerance. And I know he believes the same way. To have someone sitting in this office, who carries that message out to 600 deputies out here, wearing badges and carrying guns, that’s scary.
Q: It is scary”¦and it’s not just that part that’s scary to me, but like I was saying, the citizens that were expressing these ideas, who are saying ‘we’re going to get all the illegal immigrants to self-deport,’ how do you get people to ‘self-deport’ other than making it very unpleasant for them to stay where they are, and I asked him about this, that people are saying stuff like this”¦And what’s going to happen if those people get frustrated with the fact that the things they want to happen aren’t happening soon enough, and maybe take things into their own hands, and maybe have the impression that law enforcement is going to turn a blind eye to that. Now, Greg denies all of that. He says that he does not agree with his father. We talked about the fact that he has gay family members, and he loves them, he thinks they’re sinners, but he loves them, and he would not treat people any differently. But my question is, what about the people who don’t see those nuances, and just see, here’s somebody who’s the Sheriff and shares my beliefs, and openly proclaims that he has these beliefs. That’s what concerns me; people like that who really are hateful and homophobic and would feel emboldened.
A: That’s certainly a possibility. I know that the gay and lesbian officers we have here in the department are scared to death of this kid taking over ““ think about that for a minute. I mean, you have someone who feels this strongly, what’s going to happen to the numbers of folks in this agency, you know?
Q: Well, he told me also that he put in a recommendation for a gay deputy or someone in the department, so, I mean, I’m hearing these two very different stories.
A: Well, if”¦he’s running for office. He wants to get elected.
Q: As are you.
A: Right. And I’ve got a proven record of where I stand and what I’ve done, I’ve been very forthright and very public about it. He has not ““ he all of a sudden now is trying to say all the right things, and a lot of the things he has said about me are not true, to make me look bad. Allegations that the day after the convention, I was supposedly at a softball tournament ““ he has it on his website ““ I was supposedly seen at a softball tournament, coercing deputies into signing a petition so I could run as an independent. I wasn’t at the softball tournament, but he’s got it on his website. I was confronted by a reporter, said I was seen by two deputies but they didn’t want to give their names because they were afraid they’d get in trouble; well, that’s nonsense. I wasn’t at the thing, I couldn’t tell you to this day where the tournament was held, but allegedly I was there”¦he’s telling people this as though it’s fact. They’re trying to make me look like the big boogeyman here. You’ve got to think about the fact that you’ve got somebody who would say anything, whether it’s true or not, and he knows it’s not true, that will say anything to get elected. He’s going to tell you what you want to hear, he’s going to tell Help Save Loudoun what they want to hear, he’s going to tell Leesburg Police what they want to hear, he’s going to tell my guys what they want to hear, he’s going to tell everybody what they want to hear, to get elected. And that’s sad. You know, I’m not a secret, I’ve got a proven history of what I stand for and what I’ve done; I’ve been with this department for 20 years and been Sheriff for 12, and there’s not a part of my life that’s not out there in public, and the comments that were made by the people with his t-shirts, with integrity written on them at this convention”¦the Black preacher who called me and told me [the African-American gentleman who was called the n-word by other delegates]”¦on two different occasions, and he called me and told me personally that this is what happened to him. That these people with the t-shirts on were trying to talk him into voting for Ahlemann, because he had my sticker on his jacket, and when finally he said, ‘look, I’m voting for Steve Simpson, I think he’s done a good job, I’m here to support him,’ and that’s when the n-word was used, they basically said ‘you people ought to know your place, you don’t belong here anyway.’ And it happened the second time out in the lobby. He was sitting there, on a bench”¦and these other two guys came in and sat down, and it was a woman that said it to him the first time, these guys came in and one of them saw him and said ‘oh you’re one of those Simpson n*****s, and sat down next to him. And he just, he called me and told me that personally, so I know that”¦it’s not just rumor or hearsay.
Q: Well, and I got a phone call right after the convention, from someone who I knew to be one of your supporters, so I took this with a grain of salt, because it is an election year, but then I heard it from other people. And this person is the first one to tell me about the ‘get the s***s out of Loudoun’ remark, and this person also told me about a bunch of his delegates being there, with, like you were describing, a lot of tattoos. And the person couldn’t really describe them, so it wasn’t clear to me whether they were religious, or white supremacist, or”¦the person just found the whole thing scary.
A: I think ‘white supremacist’ was the word that was used a lot that day.
Q: And that was one of the rumors about the tattoo that Mr. Ahlemann himself has identified, that it was of a swastika ““ and I don’t know where that rumor came from, given your remarks about 1940s Germany, were you the source of the information that started these rumors?
A: That is was a swastika? No, because I knew what it was. I’d seen it, I worked with him, so I’d seen it obviously.
Q: You’ve talked about this publicly before, about knowing about the tattoo?
A: Not really, I mean, I knew that he had it, he’s had it for years. The only time, I guess, I actually learned his reason behind it, was on his website, and what he was doing with it”¦in people’s faces, I was unaware of that part of it”¦but no, I didn’t talk about the tattoo, I guess the only thing that I, as people would ask me about it, he obviously doesn’t think it’s professional, or why would he be hiding it, even in the heat of the summer?
Q: He said he doesn’t think it looks professional for a campaign, but apparently he thought it looked professional for a motorcycle cop.
A: Yeah, and is it going to be professional for the Sheriff? Then there were these other things said by his father”¦
Q: Do you mean to your wife? [This is the story that was in the Observer.] Tell me about that, because I saw what was in the paper.
A: He was there ““ he was ranting and raving up and down in front of the table [a literature table outside the church where the convention was being held]”¦My wife and my ten year old were standing there handing out literature to people as they came by”¦and he was walking up and down the sidewalk, yelling and screaming, with an anger in his eyes, I mean like you could tear the head off of something, and up and down the sidewalk he was going, yelling and screaming, and when somebody would walk up, ‘hey, how you doing, God bless you, nice to see you, thanks for coming out’ he would divert them away from my table, and walk them around the corner, and then he’d come back”¦
Q: What was he yelling and screaming?
A: He said, this”¦Sheriff, lets deputies have sex with the inmates in the jail; he allows his deputies to drive their cruisers drunk, he allows them to have sex on duty, he allows them”¦just going on and on, just ranting and raving nonsense like that ““ because we had a guy that, eight years ago or so got involved with a female inmate, we fired him and prosecuted him; we had an incident with a supervisor and a female deputy, and dealt with those people; it was done all according to policy, you know, but because he thought it was immoral, because a married man was having an affair with a married woman, that they should be fired. Well, it was off-duty, there was nothing criminal there; if it had been on duty it would have been a different story, but it was off duty, nothing we can do anything about”¦we dealt with them as far as we could take it administratively, and with the blessing of the County Attorney and the Human Resources policy ““ he didn’t like the results of that, he thought they should have both been terminated, well, I can’t just fire people because I want to fire them, I have a procedure to go through. He didn’t like that, so he was going on and on about that. Had my ten year old in tears, just screaming; later on, inside, he came across in front of me”¦he walks right in front of me, gets right in my face and said “You’ll regret the day you ever told my son the buck stops with you.” “¦I said excuse me? He turned around, “you heard me,” and then walked on away”¦and the church that it was held at [The Community Church]; do you know who Arlie Whitlow is? The pastor there? In the lobby of the church, Arlie Whitlow came by to check on the convention; he wasn’t part of the process, but”¦somebody called him about the air conditioning. He was in the lobby of the church, there were a lot of people standing around, and Jay Ahlemann walks up to him and starts”¦going on and on about him backing John Andrews in the convention, because he supports homosexuality, and going on and on and all like that, that he promotes it or supports it or something”¦then he gets into this, some type of comment about abortion, but then he went on to say that, ‘your days in the Christian community are numbered,’ he said, ‘I’m coming back to Loudoun County and I’m taking over.’ And this was in front of, he was screaming this in front of all these people in the lobby of that church, and he apparently had come back and confronted him later, something else about, I didn’t hear that conversation, but that came from Arlie Whitlow because I called him, I heard rumors, I heard what happened, so I called him and asked him what happened, and he explained that’s exactly what happened.
So, I mean, I know his father, and I know how controlling he is in everything and everybody around him, and I know Greg is saying, well, I’ll distance myself from my father because of what has happened, but he’s not going to be able to change, his father’s financing his campaign, and there’s no way he’s going to be able to walk away and say ‘you’re not going to have any influence’; it’s just not going to happen, it’s just not going to happen. And it scares me to death to think that that’s the direction the department’s going to go, and it scares the people that are here. You can’t have that kind of intolerance in someone in law enforcement, and certainly not the one who’s going to be setting the tone for the way everybody else operates here.
Q: And I was going to ask you about the vandalism that happened in Aldie last summer, the two gay men who had their home vandalized, which seems to have been an isolated incident. Obviously, when something like that happens, you’re afraid that maybe it’s not, that there’s going to be copycats or whatever, because that’s the point of a crime like that. And we were really pleased to see how seriously it was taken as a hate crime, in fact, that was the first thing that the deputies on the scene said, they looked around and said ‘this is a hate crime.’ And I wondered if there was anything you wanted to say about hate crimes in general, from a law enforcement perspective?
A: Well, that they are taken very seriously, we do take them very seriously. There’s no room in this society for that type of activity”¦you can have your beliefs, your lifestyle, and I think this country is kind of built on being able to express ““ or we’d like to think we are, we’d like to think we’re moving ahead, to be able to express your beliefs and your lifestyle without being suppressed by someone else who feels differently. And we talk about freedom, I mean, to have this guy called the n-word, I mean, come on, we’re not back in the ’60s, back in the ’50s. I mean, we’d like to think we’re moving forward, but then things like this happen ““ a lot of times, you’ll get kids that’ll spray paint swastikas on stuff, they don’t, you know, sometimes we catch them and they’ll be eight years, ten years old, they don’t know what a swastika is, they see this stuff on the news or on a show, they think it’s funny or whatever, they have no idea what they’re doing. We’ve has swastikas put on white houses, of white inhabitants, so these kids don’t know what they’re doing sometimes. After 9-11 we had an incident down at the Mosque, the ADAMS center. As it turns out, it was a Muslim person who did that”¦he was eventually turned over to the embassy and was sent back overseas somewhere, but it was not just someone from the community, who was anti”¦it was a Muslim kid, he was 19 or 20, who was the one who did it.
Q: And what was the point he was trying to make?
A: Well, the speculation was that he was trying to further a cause, make it look like, see what they’ve done to us, and the reality was, he’s the one that did it”¦But I guess the message from the law enforcement perspective is that we do take it seriously, they’re investigated seriously, and we look at that avenue and try to rule out, is it a hate crime or is it just, people sometimes spray 4 or 5 houses in a row, and there happens to be a black family in one of and the others will be white”¦that’s not targeted, as a rule”¦but there have been cases in the past where there have been things that happened specifically at a black family or something like that. Usually what happens, is it’s kids in the neighborhood, and they may be older and they may know that this is a black family, and that may be the cause”¦but they’re not really part of any white supremacist organization, or making statements like that, it’s more of a localized prank, you could say.
Q: But they would still be taken seriously as a hate crime”¦
A: Oh yeah, yeah, and that’s how they get prosecuted, too, it’s exactly how they get prosecuted, so it’s something we take very seriously, and whether someone knows the magnitude of it or not doesn’t really matter when it comes to prosecution time.
Q: What do you think about the argument that hate crimes legislation is really useless because it doesn’t matter whether someone is victimized because of who they are, or because of some other reason ““ they’re still victimized, and the crime is the crime, you know, they’re no less dead or no less beat up or whatever it is. From your perspective”¦
A: I think motivation has a lot to do with, well, maybe more from a sentencing perspective, I think motivation has a lot to do with something”¦whether this person did this because it was an act of passion, or because they were mad about something that happened, or was it thought about and pre-meditated because of their beliefs or their lifestyle, so I think it has a lot to do with it”¦it does have a bearing on the investigation, too, because the intent helps you find the bad guy, so I think it’s very important”¦it helps in the investigation, and obviously the motivation makes a big difference in the trial and sentencing, pre-meditation, those kinds of things.
Q: The message that we’re trying to send, I think, with getting things like the Matthew Shepard Act passed, the message is that it’s not acceptable to do this kind of thing, like with what happened to these guys in Aldie, we wanted to make it really clear, we wanted to mobilize the whole community and send the message that this is not the kind of community this is, and this is not something that’s going to be acceptable. So the purpose of it, to my mind, is not so much to have this differential punishment, because the effect of the crime is so much worse on the victim, it’s the effect on the whole community”¦of which that person is a member. Because that’s the point of hate crimes, to send a message”¦so you find, do you think that legislation like the Matthew Shepard Act, the Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act, is helpful in terms of doing your job?
A: I’m just trying to think where it has its biggest effect, whether it’s like you said, on a community, sending a message to the community ““ as far as doing the job, I don’t know if it makes”¦you still have to go through the same steps, the investigating; I think the biggest part, like you said, is the message that this is not going to be tolerated, but we still go through the same steps, it’s treated like any other crime as far as the steps we go through”¦it certainly helps with motivation, it helps with tracking down perpetrators in something like that. So we go through the same steps of tracking down who did this, that doesn’t change. It helps us, the legislation doesn’t help us, but the fact that someone was targeted because of their beliefs or their religion or their appearance or whatever it might be, that helps us track down who maybe could be the culprit, but the steps that we would go through as far as investigating are pretty much the same as they would be for any other assault, or anything like that. I think where the legislation comes in is in that part where this extra time is given to the crime, I think the awareness part, and like you said, really the message that is sent out to the community, that this type of activity is not going to be tolerated, that this type of activity is not what this community is all about, and I think that is probably the biggest message that comes out of it right there.
Q: Do you have any personal experience with the gay community or the transgender community that gives you insight into our concerns, that you’d like to talk about, or is there anything else you’d like to say to the Equality Loudoun community?
A: Not that I can think of from a personal”¦with respect to the law enforcement cases over the years, but I think the message that needs to come out of here, like I said, out of this office, is a message of tolerance, especially when you’re talking about law enforcement, of peoples’ rights, and the defending of peoples’ rights. And that message has to be clear. It can’t be this way in an election year, or this way because I want to get elected, or some other way, it’s got to be what it is, and I think I have a 12 year history of proving that message is coming out of this office, and the clarity with which it comes out, and I think that’s very important, it’s something people need to look at.
Q: Well, I really appreciate you taking the time to do this, and I’m glad that we connected.
Sheriff Simpson is really not that into blogs and computers, but is happy to answer questions by phone, either directly (571.233.0572) or through me. I can post answers in the comments, or readers can share any conversations they have.