This is the third in our series of interviews with the candidates for Loudoun County Sheriff. For the previous interviews and background, see:
Please leave your questions for Mike George in the comments.
Q: Any tattoos you’d like to tell me about?
A: I have none.
Q: Alright. Now, I asked both of the other candidates about this, so I’ll ask you, too. The handling of the Soulforce Equality Ride visit to Patrick Henry College, you’re familiar with that; having talked to Sheriff Simpson, I think I have a better understanding that his office really wasn’t responsible for the decision to mass all the state troopers out in front of the campus that day, that was a decision made by the State Police, and I guess you wouldn’t have had any more control over that than he did. But, from a community policing standpoint, how would you have handled a situation like that differently? I mean, what he was saying was that they were hearing internet chatter indicating that outside groups were possibly going to come and disrupt it, and were in opposition to Soulforce.
A: Well, the first thing is, why weren’t they communicating with the State Police? You know, it’s in Loudoun County, and Loudoun County was participating in it; one would hope that they would be communicating with each other, and he would have known how many people were coming from the State Police, because that’s a deployment issue. State Police says, ‘we’re sending 50,’ he could have said, ‘well, I don’t need any.’
Q: Yeah, what he said was they requested 10 and they got 60 or 70, and that he just had no control over how they were deployed.
A: And that’s unacceptable, whether that’s the State Police or the Sheriff; there had to be some type of communication there, ‘how many people you sending up, here’s what we got.’ As far as the chatter, who knows, that could have happened, but then again, you contact Soulforce, you go back out into the community, and you research, what do you know about these groups, what have they done in the past, whether there’s been an issue. If there’s no issue, then you can kind of take some of this stuff as an urban legend or whatever – but there had to be some type of, some more investigation into the background of what’s going on, and obviously there was a lack of it. And there should be a lot more communication between the State Police and the Sheriff’s Office.
Q: They were working with Soulforce, I mean, we have no complaint there. I think they did research what Soulforce had done in the past…they didn’t ask Soulforce about the chatter; they worked with Soulforce on the civil disobedience thing, they knew what was going to happen, and what the Sheriff told me was they had no issue with Soulforce or with Equality Loudoun, they didn’t think there was going to be any trouble from us. But my question is, if they were hearing this chatter, we at Equality Loudoun would be the ones who would best know about people in the community who are opposed to us, and I would think just from an intelligence-gathering point of view, why would they not contact us?
A: They should’ve. You should have been part of it, they knew you were going to participate, they knew you were a legitimate organization, and someone should have called you and said, ‘hey, here’s what we’re hearing; what’s the deal, what are you hearing?’ That’s how this works, especially on the intelligence side. I mean, trust me, if they had heard something and you would have confirmed it, every person they had there would have been 100% legitimate.
Q: And as it was, it looked really stupid.
A: Well, again, a lack of communication somewhere along the line. I mean, whether it’s the intel officer who didn’t call, and say ‘hey David, I know you’re with Loudoun Equality, what’s the deal, do you know about this, here’s what we’re hearing, what are you hearing?’ I mean, that’s probably never happened to you…
Q: Well, it hasn’t, and actually we didn’t have a formal contact with them, and that’s something we need to also take responsibility for…
A: But you’re not hard to find…[laughing] trust me, if they know how to use the internet, they should be able to find you.
Q: Well, that’s exactly it; we had no reason to think that we should contact them, because they were in contact with Soulforce. In retrospect, yeah, but we had not heard any of this chatter…
A: And that’s another thing, because that…I’m not questioning what he’s hearing, but I know you’re pretty much internet-savvy, and you’re on the internet a lot, you might be the first one to find internet chatter, before anyone on the police department…
Q: And the chatter that I did find, when I went looking for it, turned out to be nothing more than something posted on the PFLAG website…Parents, Friends and Family of Lesbians and Gays, it’s just, it’s basically a parents’ support group, probably the most innocuous…
A: So they wouldn’t be saying ‘we’re coming up there to start a riot.’
Q: Right. So this is why the community was very suspicious of this whole thing, and thought it was a politically motivated show of force…and I believe him when he says it wasn’t, but it just looks bad.
A: Well, it does look bad…I read his interview, and it looked to me like a severe lack of cooperation between the State Police and the Sheriff’s Office…and I did intelligence, I ran the intelligence unit for Fairfax County Police, and you should be talking to these, you know, if they’re involved, you would be talking to them on a command level, not just investigator to investigator, especially when it comes to deployment of people. And, if it’s one of his commanders? He should say, ‘well, one of my commanders screwed up,’ and he didn’t do that. Now, but I don’t know what that situation was [and we don’t want to second-guess…] Exactly. And I’m going off what I read there, and the only thing I see in there was actually a lack of communication, where he’s saying the State Police did this and they didn’t tell us..if it’s not lack of communication, then it’s a lack of cooperation, there’s a lack of something…
Q: Yeah…I mean, 112 officers, you know, and 30 kids reading from their Bibles; it didn’t look good. Along the same lines, I know you’ve talked about this same thing in terms of immigrant communities, for example, the Asian Crime Task Force in Fairfax, where you’re dealing with there, with a community that’s predisposed to distrust the police to begin with, so it’s not like they’re going to come to you and establish contact, you have to go to them. So, how did you go about establishing this connection, and how important is it to have people within the agency who are actually part of the culture that you’re trying to reach out to?
A: It’s important to reach out to the communities, all of them, I mean…proactively; you want to get to the community leaders, and different organizations; that’s the first thing you would want to do. The second thing, you want to open, have an open dialogue with them. You have to establish trust; trust, especially when you’re talking about someone coming from a Latin American country where the police and government are corrupt, some of the Asian countries…I mean, the first impression for them is the police are not your friend. So you have to reach out. Now, sometimes if you have an officer or deputy of the same ethnic background, that helps, but a lot of it has to depend on the individual – I mean, they might not trust them, there’s a lot of distrust in every culture, in every race, of other people, depending on the personality. So it’s not always a necessity to have someone of…I can walk in, talk to the black gang members without a problem, I never had a problem. The Asian gang members, the guy that I had as the liaison was a white guy. And he was the most well respected…and the guy I had with the black gangs was a white guy; I had black guys on the unit, but this guy, they liked him.
Q: So how do you break through all that and figure out who is the right person to talk to a community?
A: It’s how you treat people…I had a standing rule, when I was a supervisor, with the people that I supervised – because I was the upper level, to the people under me – treat our squad members how you would want me to treat you, and I just think it’s a very good way to establish a rule, and the same thing with any of the citizens, you go there and you show them respect, you’re honest, you stand by your word, and they’re going to say “˜this is a good guy, I can trust him.’ I think respect actually escapes all racial boundaries, I really do, and on a lot of different avenues I’ve seen that work, where, you know, if I’m straight with someone, I’m not going to sit there and lie to them…when I supervised, I had Asian guys, I had white guys, I had black guys, Hispanic guys, it had to do with them respecting me as a leader, that I was going to be straight with them, tell them ‘this is how it works, and this is why we’re doing it this way.’ And you establish that type of respect, that this guy does know what he’s doing, he is honest, and he’s not going to hurt me. And that works.
Q: And I guess that would go the same way with the gay community, as far as establishing dialogue.
A: Absolutely. And, I don’t think they have this now, but if they had monthly meetings where you could bring up any issues, where you could contact the Sheriff or one of his upper level designees, where you could discuss issues that you’re having, that would probably be something that a) opens up the dialogue, and b) it establishes a better trust with the department, especially if you brought something to their attention and they did act on it”¦what I’m saying is, you go to someone in authority at the Sheriff’s Office, and say “˜this is a problem, and this is a problem.’ They come and tell you “˜well, I can’t do this, that’s an individual thing, I can’t help you, but this one here we can fix,’ and they do fix it – you’ve just changed your whole perception of the Sheriff’s Office. You know, the one [problem], he couldn’t do it, but he told me why he couldn’t do it, and the other one he said was a problem and he did fix it. That’s the respect, that’s the honesty, and you’re going to start saying, ‘you know, these guys ain’t bad.’ And that’s how you build relationships.
Q: One thing that I had heard from somebody in the department is that there is some kind of liaison unit under development right now, I’m not sure if there were some issues or events that brought that about, it might just be the changing demographics…but, again, there’s been no formal contact with Equality Loudoun.
A: I was going to say, if there was that unit, you would know about it – I would think – I mean, they wouldn’t be doing their job…if I’m a gay officer on the Sheriff’s Office, and I want to reach out to the gay community, I believe Equality Loudoun is the organization to go to; I don’t know if there’s other ones…
Q: And I would think that it would help our community with the trust issue, and I would think that it would also help with the work of the Sheriff’s Office.
A: Well, it does, trust me, to get that respect, to open up those dialogues and open up those lines of communication is a great thing for law enforcement, that’s how law enforcement functions, is information from the community.
Q: So, when you were with the Fairfax office, there was no, Equality Fairfax didn’t exist yet, there was no, as far as I know, organized group…so did you have any experience there in establishing dialogue with the gay community?
A: My only contact would be if I went on a complaint or if one of my guys went on a complaint, and the person was gay…other than that, there was no, there was nothing in Fairfax at that time that I know of…there was no open dialogue between the gay community and Fairfax that I’m aware about.
Q: Was there in the department any kind of education, or cultural sensitivity training?
A: We did sensitivity training, every supervisor went through sensitivity training.
Q: How did the training, how do they acquire the trainers for that?
A: Well, the trainers are professionals, there’s nothing in-house…they send in professional trainers to train in things like sexual harassment, things of that nature, any type of racial stuff, any type of gay and lesbian issues, this is how you treat them, this is what you should respect; there’s always training in how you understand cultural differences.
Q: And then, do you have any personal experience that would give you insight into the concerns of the gay community here in Loudoun?
A: I do not have any insight, other than I’m actually open and would listen to whatever the concerns are, and I would actually tell them what I thought could be done and what I thought couldn’t be done…I look at it this way, I’m not going to tell you something, I’m going to do something when I can’t do it; I feel a lot more comfortable telling you I can’t do this because of, and give you the reason why.
Q: Here’s an example, something that came up around, because of the so-called “marriage amendment” that was passed last year. Domestic violence complaints – there was actually an opinion from the Attorney General at some point saying that no, you can’t treat an incident between a same sex couple as a domestic violence complaint, and I think there’s been another opinion that overrode that now..but that’s an example of something where people would be unsure.
A: Well, that would be an education thing, because I’m not aware of either one of them, so…put it to you this way, if they came and they said ‘this is the law,’ then our guys have to be up on the law. And that’s easily done by sending a memo out, and maybe a general order, saying this is the new decision. You know, knowing the law is very important for all law enforcement, it’s basically your rulebook, this is what you can and can’t do.
Q: Right, because you can’t make policy…
A: Right, we don’t make policy, so you know, if the policy was ‘it doesn’t count if it’s a same sex marriage, that’s not domestic violence,’ and that comes down from the courts, guess what? There’s not a lot the Sheriff can do about that, they cannot enforce it. If it comes down and says, ‘this is part of domestic violence,’ then we can enforce it, so it’s all about the training aspect and keeping up on all this stuff.
Q: So that would be an educational issue where we could work together, and educate our community…
A: Exactly – educate the community, and educate the agency. That’s one of those things [where you want to] establish a dialogue, where we could come and say ‘if you’re not aware, there’s this law that just came down, and this is what it says’…I can tell you that just from dealing in government, they’d want to send it to the County Attorney and the Commonwealth’s Attorney and everything else, but if it comes down from the Attorney General, it’s probably sticking.
Q: One of the things that people are talking a lot about are gangs and gang violence, which is obviously something you know a lot about, and most people, because of the association that’s been created in the public consciousness, when they hear the word ‘gangs’ they think of MS-13, or they think of Latino gangs, and I’m pretty sure there are a lot of gangs other than that, but are they always, or almost always, ethnically based?
A: No, no – the gangs, like crime itself, doesn’t discriminate. I can tell you, the reason you’re seeing so much Mara Salvatrucha, MS-13, it’s probably the largest Latino gang in this area, in the Metropolitan area, so that’s why you’re getting that perception; there’s 18th Street, that’s another large one. But then you have these little splinter gangs that are sometimes based on communities. You never have one gang, one gang doesn’t exist, you always need a counter-gang, so that’s what you’re looking at; Tiny Rascals was basically a Vietnamese gang, but they had blacks, they had whites, they had Hispanics; MS-13, you’ll find some…I’m sure there’s some white kids in there; so as a general rule, they’re smart enough to know there’s strength in numbers.
Q: What about the differences in motivation – I know there must be a difference between an organized crime-driven gang and a more ideologically-driven hate group. Is that something that the gang unit in Fairfax encountered, and what’s your experience in dealing with hate groups, as opposed to a more crime-driven gang? Is there a difference?
A: A hate group, you hit it on the head, it’s based on…
Q: Is that just another kind of gang?
A: It can be…it kind of, it goes to the definition of what a gang is; you have three or more people, conspiring to commit a crime on a continuing basis. There’s different definitions across the state, but there’s, these definitions is one of the problems you have, between what some people call organized crime, versus what’s a street gang, versus what’s a hate group; a lot of times you’ll get different definitions…I mean, I look at it like the hate groups are the ones going with ideology, whether it’s they hate blacks, there’s black gangs that hate whites, anti-gay groups, skinhead groups who hate everybody; and it’s different [from crime gangs], but in the same sense they’re targeted. Now, in Fairfax we didn’t target Pagans and Hell’s Angels and stuff like that, although they are gangs, because they were more in the organized crime side and they were more [the job of] the organized crime unit.
Q: Yeah, it seems like it just goes to the language, it’s kind of arbitrary. I mean, you look at this article in the Washington Post this morning, where they’re talking about targeting the Latino community for robberies, because they think a) they carry a lot of cash, because they don’t trust banks, and b) they’re not going to report it. So they’re targeted – it’s not a hate crime, in the sense that…
A: More of a crime of opportunity. And let me explain something to you – when I started the gang unit in 1995, we started originally because of home invasion robberies. They were usually Asian gangs, and the home invasion robberies were because the Asians didn’t trust banks, and they were known to keep a lot of money in the house, and they didn’t trust the police, so what you have is the same structure, different culture.
Q: The perfect victim.
A: A perfect…the same thing, what they’re saying is ‘these guys, they carry a lot of money’…you know, on the illegal side, they don’t have bank accounts, because you need a social security number, so they’re kind of stuck that way. I mean, how many check cashing places have you seen crop up, those places that the guy gets his check, they cash it for a profit, you pay 10 percent of your check or whatever, and they go into Western Union and wire money home, whatever they’re doing, and they’re keeping some to live on. But they become targets, because culturally, what they’re doing…the criminal subculture is part of that, and they’re aware of what’s going on, they know what these guys are doing. They know, whoever is working as a dishwasher, on Friday nights he gets paid in cash, maybe because he is illegal, and that’s an easy robbery. Now, I’m not saying it’s other illegals, because it’s probably not, as a general rule. It’s probably someone that knows that this guy is illegal, and that he’s not going to report it.
Q: Right, and according to this article, it’s white kids and black kids, and if there’s more than three of them doing this on a regular basis, I guess by some definitions they would be a gang.
A: They could be.
Q: I think this is a fair question, because it goes to the intelligence-based policing approach that you’re talking about – can you talk about the factors that encourage gang activity and recruitment? Why do people join gangs, from your experience?
A: Well, first of all, they’re actively recruited, and it starts young, 5th grade, 6th grade; that’s the first thing. The second thing is, they go to broken homes, parents that work a lot, stuff of that nature. And then they’re trying to, they’re looking for protection. Look at it this way; you’re, you’ve grown up in Fairfax, say, and you’re a little Hispanic kid, and you’re getting beat up by some of the bigger white kids, so the gang members come and say “˜we can stop that, but you got to join the gang.’ And it’s a whole psychological approach to get these guys into the gang. I mean, I’ve seen it where they’ve stopped and beat the heck out of kids, and said, “˜we’re going to do this until you join the gang,’ and if there’s no way to stop this, what do you do? Do you get beat up every day, or do you join the gang?
Q: So this idea of, of turning kids away from after-school programs is not a great idea, from a law enforcement perspective?
A: It’s a bad idea. One of the, having kids here, growing up here in Loudoun County, the complaint both of my kids had, one’s male and one’s female, was there’s nothing to do here.
Q: That’s what Loudoun Youth Initiative found, in their survey.
A: They said…what do we do? I mean, my kids, unfortunately they played a lot of video games, which I’m not a big fan of, but that’s what they liked doing; and I actually provided a lot of entertainment, because I felt like I could set up the rules, you know, it was my house. ‘I’ll feed you, don’t bring alcohol in, you guys know what I do for a living,’ and it always worked. My son had an after-prom party, they graduated from Park View, and he had, probably 150 of his closest friends, and no alcohol, no one there drunk, I mean, I set up rules ““ if they come drunk, I’m not sending them away, their parents will come get them; if they’re drinking, I’m not sending them away either, their parents are coming to get them.
Q: But then, you’re an involved parent, and you weren’t working two or three jobs, either.
A: Exactly – but that’s what I was getting at, you look at all that, some of these parents are working…I mean, when we did gang education, one time we had to get the school board [to help], with buses, to pick up the parents, because they had no way to get there, and we had to provide babysitters because they had no one to watch their kids…so you’ve got to look at all these factors, step back, and say what can we do to make this work.
Q: Going back to the hate groups thing, when I talked to Sheriff Simpson, I learned something interesting; we were talking about the whole tattoo controversy, about Greg’s tattoo and the website he used to have up, and what the Sheriff was saying was that he didn’t have a problem with the tattoo itself, and that the Sheriff’s office doesn’t have a policy that says you can’t have one, a lot of people have them – but they now are talking about having a policy because apparently they’ve had some applicants recently that came in very, very heavily tattooed, like with their arms completely covered, very visible, and he has an issue with that, because he’s concerned about the image that would be created by having these folks out in the community in uniform, doing law enforcement.
And then at the same time there were reports coming out of the Republican convention, about some delegates that called other delegates racist names – and those people were described to me in the same way, as being really heavily tattooed. And I wonder, because of the circumstances, whether some of these might be the same people. I know all kinds of people have tattoos, but I also know that there are white supremacist groups that are active in this part of Virginia; and the Minutemen are becoming more active in our area, and at least in other areas they’re linked to these white supremacist groups. Is that something you’re concerned about gaining ground in the current climate?
A: Well, like I said, I don’t have tattoos, and I’m not really a big fan of them…I do, I mean, there’s proven studies that you lose jobs, availability for jobs, and management positions by having tattoos, visible tattoos, that there’s a reduction…it’s perception, but it’s a reality; less people are in management positions who have tattoos.
Q: Well, obviously Greg feels the same way, because he told me he doesn’t think it’s professional, it doesn’t look professional to be campaigning [with his tattoo showing].
A: And he’s right, he’s 100% right, it isn’t professional. So the question is, on the policy on tattoos, one guy might have a tattoo of barbed wire around his wrist. Is that professional? No; is it offensive? No; so then you’ve got to get into what’s offensive. And then you’re going to have to, it becomes kind of a nitpicking [thing]; is a skull and crossbones offensive, or is a skull and crossbones with a snake coming out of the eye offensive?
Q: And maybe it is to some people and not others, and how do you know and how do you balance the rights of people…
A: Exactly, so you can come and say “˜no tattoos,’ or, if you wear tattoos they have to be covered…the problem you have there is the people you have already on the job who have tattoos; it’s kind of like an ex post facto law, ‘you never bothered me before when I got the tattoo,’ so it becomes a difficult issue. Like I said, my thing is, a perfect example is, the NBA makes Allen Iverson cover his one arm, when he plays, I don’t know if you ever seen him play basketball, but he has a sleeve that he wears because his tattoos are offensive…so, they’re doing it. I mean, there used to be all kinds of things, I can remember on Fairfax you weren’t allowed to have a pierced ear, guys couldn’t wear pierced earrings, or you had to cover it with a band-aid if you had a pierced ear – a lot of guys had them – it was a professionalism thing, that was going back years ago, but things change – a lot of it’s a safety issue; I mean, trust me, you don’t want to be wearing an earring and have it yanked out.
Q: Anyway, I thought it was interesting that he [Simpson] was saying that he didn’t want to hire these guys.
A: Well, you can make it a condition of employment. I mean, you tell them, if you get hired, you have to wear a long-sleeved shirt through the summer, or you have to cover up those tattoos. You know, you hate to lose good people because of what might not have been the brightest decision…how many military guys go out and get drunk and get a tattoo, then wake up and say ‘what the heck did I do here?’ And there’s also tattoo removal, but it’s very expensive. We had a tattoo removal program in the gang unit; guys who were trying to get out of the gangs, they’d get their tattoos removed, but it’s an expensive proposition.
Q: And then I’d like to ask about your views on hate crimes in general, just as a category of crime – and I don’t mean that in the way the federal statute defines it, but more in the broad sense, like the vandalism that took place down in Aldie last year, where it was a crime against property, but it was perpetrated against a gay couple. Does it make sense to you to make a distinction between what would otherwise be identical criminal acts on the basis of motivation, and why?
A: Well, I think it is critical, actually, to target that way; you want to, when you look at any crime, you want to find out, obviously, who did it, but you want to know what the motivation was. A lot of crime is motivated by – if someone does a robbery, the motivation is money; if there’s a fight, it could be domestic violence, it could be just a bar thing over a woman, whatever, or it could be that one guy is gay and one guy is straight – and then, how many other gay people have been beat up? It’s for intelligence, basically, which I’m actually a big fan of; I just think, you know, knowledge is power, in my book, and the more you know, the easier your job is. So, if you have a string of vandalisms, say, mailboxes knocked down – petty thing, kids do it all the time – you collect all the data. Well, now you collected all the data, and the mailboxes, they’re not just a straight row; there’s one, maybe one a half mile down the road, and then another one, and now all the owners of the houses are black, so that tells you something. That gives you a heads-up that we’ve got a problem here, and that’s why it’s important to track crimes that way, and you’d be a fool not to track crime that way, on any crime, no matter what it is.
Q: And that issue with the data collection keeps coming up in this race, too; you know, whether the statistics can be trusted, and whether they have any value in the first place. Greg was saying that he doesn’t trust statistics.
A: I do statistics; I do them now, for the recording industry, for how many raids we did, how many search warrants we participated in, how many people were arrested, how much property we seized, how much money, how many guns we got, how much dope we got…just, when I train law enforcement, it’s important to me to tell them, this isn’t just about music piracy; we just seized 3 Kilos of crack cocaine, in a warehouse in Atlanta, along with 50,000 counterfeit CDs. So don’t just look at it as music, because it’s just an extension of the criminal portfolio. We’ve worked with ATF, and seized, like, 15 machine guns with silencers. And so, again, it’s the stat, what do you want to see, what do you want to show, that’s power. And with what, what they’re talking about is…in 2005 there were five homicides in Loudoun, in 2006, there were two. That crime statistic went down. I don’t remember the numbers, but in 2005, aggravated assault went up – and a lot – from 2005 to 2006. So did auto tampering and theft from auto, two crimes that are associated with gangs. So, you could do this two ways; the basic crime went up, overall crime went up. But if you went and said, well, in 2005 we had, just for numbers sakes, 100,000 people, and in 2006 we had 175,000, well, percentage-wise, the crime went down. So you have to distinguish how you come up with these numbers. If you come and tell the facts, you know, Steve Simpson just put out a thing that he reduced crime in the last year by 40 percent; now, if he did that, why is the jail overflowing?
Q: Well, the population is much higher.
A: Then crime didn’t…per person, it went down; crime was raised. That’s what I’m getting at, so you can play with these numbers, and that’s what Greg is talking about. You can say that crime went down 40 percent because the population went up so much; crime actually went up.
Q: Ok, but you can’t just say, well, anybody can take these numbers and manipulate them and say that they mean anything they want, and just throw the whole thing out and say, well, the data doesn’t matter…
A: No, no, the data always matters, and you should collect the data…what I’m saying is you should put the caveat in there how you collected it and what was your basis, what was your formula?
Q: Now, one of the things that you’ve talked about that you would bring to this position is that you have the supervisory experience in Fairfax County, at a time when Fairfax was experiencing a similar pattern of rapid growth and demographic change. And there are clearly similarities between Fairfax then and Loudoun now; but there are also some significant differences, particularly the fact that it’s now post-9-11, and the national debate over immigration has become a lot more prominent, giving rise to groups like the Minutemen who are becoming active here. So, what are the significant differences between then and now that your experience maybe hasn’t prepared you for, and what are you doing to come up to speed on that?
A: Actually, it’s kind of funny you should mention that, because I look at the three biggest problems for Loudoun, local problems, are gangs, immigration issues, and illegal narcotics. So, when I look at them, and I think most people would agree they’re going to be very prominent areas here in Loudoun, I’m the only one that worked gangs. And you’re talking about two weeks to get up to speed; I mean, the policies, the procedures, and the techniques haven’t changed, you’ve just got to bring yourself up on to what’s currently happening, and that’s reading a report. Narcotics – not only did I work undercover on narcotics for nine years, I also was supervisor of a DEA taskforce, where I had DEA agents, customs agents, ATF agents, and detectives from six local jurisdictions working with me, so I’m pretty up to speed on how you work narcotics, and what you need to do on that; and on the immigration thing, ten years ago I saw the problem with what we were doing with immigrants, ten years ago. They were not getting deported for serious felonies, and I approached ICE and said I need help. And they told me, we can’t do it, we don’t have the people, and I said I’ll give you a person, and he will do all the paperwork and start the proceedings on all our criminals. That started with just the gang unit, and then expanded to the whole criminal investigation bureau for Fairfax. And that’s where they got this thing where they said “˜Mike George said he can do it with just one guy.’ In 1996 I did it with one guy; can I do it with one guy now? I don’t know. Do you need the whole department? Absolutely not. Because the only time you can start the deportation proceedings is after they commit a felony, or a certain crime that you have on the ICE agreement, and they’re going to be at the jail. So you train a few jailers to do that stuff, just so you have someone in there every shift. Because I’ll tell you, the numbers aren’t going to be skyrocketing; if this guy does ten backgrounds a week, that’d probably be a lot. So this whole thing, you got to have everyone trained, well, that’s if you’re doing status violations. We don’t do status violations, they don’t deport for status violations, and you’d be wasting your time.
Q: Yeah, it’s interesting that they’re trying to say, or some people are trying to say, that you’re the one who’s least qualified to deal with that issue. Then, one of the things that you said at the League of Women Voters forum was that you thought it was a mistake to close the day labor center in Herndon, because it provided a central location where the workers could be IDed.
A: Yeah, [laughing] that’s been left off if you look at everybody else’s literature.
Q: Yeah, it seems like there was some confusion over what you meant…when you said that they, at that center, would “ID” them, you didn’t mean check their residency status, because they weren’t, they didn’t check that…
A: They weren’t, they didn’t have to check it. What I was saying was you want to know who they are. They’re here. They’re not getting deported if they didn’t commit a crime. They come here to work – illegal immigration is an economic crime. So you have to understand, and this is where a lot of people are missing the boat here, they come here basically to work. Now, a few commit crimes, they go to jail like every other criminal, and if they’re here illegally they get deported, and that’s the right thing to do. And I’m not saying that that they’re here illegally is a good thing. That’s against the law. But no one is deporting them for that…so if you have a guy here, who’s coming to one place, why not say ‘what’s your name, where do you live’…fingerprint him; say ‘I don’t care about your status, we just want to know who you are,’ and let’s collect this data, because now you have something that you didn’t have before. And when they closed that, all it did was send everyone back into different parts of the community – still looking for work – and there’s nothing the police can do about it. So, it was a mistake. Now, let me clarify, another thing, this has come out and it just kind of ticked me off because a campaign based on integrity keeps making up stuff, and I kind of question the new meaning of integrity that’s coming out. But, I never said that we should open one up in Loudoun.
Q: That’s the other thing I was going to ask about that, because that’s how I’ve seen that quote presented.
A: Look at the notes for, they have the whole dialogue [from the LWV forum, posted here], it was never said; the Sheriff has no say-so in opening or closing something in Loudoun anyway; that would not be my decision. My decision, if they opened it, I would like to make recommendations on how it should work, if they were going to open one. I doubt that they’re going to open one. You will see the one in Herndon, they’ll recognize that it was a mistake, and I guarantee they’ll go back to having one. What happened with that one is they opened it, and the guys that approved it, they cleaned house on the [town council], and that’s when it started to go down, because everyone was afraid then, on the political side. But what they never realized was, these guys didn’t leave; none of the guys that went to that work center left. They’re now back over at the Parcher Avenue 7-11, where they were when I worked Fairfax, I used to see them there all the time.
So, they’re back to where they were. They truly went backwards, because they missed out on a prime opportunity to identify everyone coming there to work.
Q: So, were they fingerprinting..? [No] But that’s what you think they should be, that should be part of the process?
A: Forget about IDing them for, forget about getting their alien status, but let’s fingerprint them, because guess what? If they’re doing burglaries, breaking into cars? We get a fingerprint, we go to the work center, we pick them up, ‘we got you,’ and then you deport them. It’s a beautiful thing – it’s just that people refuse, they get so close-minded, they can’t look at what can you do, will the ends justify the means, basically. And you find a lot of these guys throwing the baby out with the bathwater…I’m a big believer in intelligence, and I think, in this day and age we’ve got to get more and more people up to speed on the forms of intelligence. Now, you’ll have the ACLU come out and say, ‘oh, no, no, you don’t want to confront these guys coming in’; why not?
Q: Well, do you think, though, that it would discourage some from using the center?
A: It might. But as long as they’re not, no one’s bothering them for immigration status…
Q: I guess that’s an education issue; that’s where a group like La Voz could come in and say, they’re not going to do that.
A: ‘We don’t care about your immigration status, we want to know who you are, that’s all we want to know.’ To tell you the truth, take a picture of them, make an ID for them, make an official ID card, you’re a member of this work center, so when you come in to the work center for a job, you have this ID, it has your thumb print on it, and a picture of you.
Q: So that would go back to community policing, working with the community…
A: A novel concept!
Q: Now, I’m hearing a lot about, on our blog and on some of the other discussions online, that the deputies are working mandatory overtime…I’m getting the impression that a lot more deputies need to be hired.
A: In the jail, I know, I’ve talked to them, they’re working 12-hour shifts, some of them six days a week – I look at that as a safety hazard; you’re in with a bunch of criminals, and, you know, you can’t afford to make a mistake. You have to be pretty sharp, mentally, you don’t want to be dozing off…I also understand that, in the jail, there’s mandatory staffing by the state. You have to have so many people in the jail; if you have this many prisoners, you have to have this many people working…do they need more people? Obviously. I mean, they pulled people off the street to man the jail, when they opened it. They made the South Riding station ““ that’s supposed to be 24-7 – they got a captain and a lieutenant and an admin person at that building, that’s it. They have roll calls from Ashburn going there, so people will see cars going in and out, cruisers, but they don’t work there, they work out of Ashburn.
Q: And then what is this, what is up with having the deputies have to drive out to every, every time they take a complaint, they have to drive out to your house or wherever it is?
A: Well, that could be a preference; a lot of people want a deputy, and you know, if someone wants to see a deputy, you should send a deputy. But I don’t know what, I don’t know the exact structure they have set up to accommodate reporting crimes online – it’s one of my platforms, actually.
Q: Well, apparently nothing, because I requested that when I had a complaint, and I was told, no, no, a deputy has to come out if you want to file a complaint, and I was like, I don’t want to take up his time with this…
A: And, see, that’s crazy – and again, that’s one of those “˜let’s work smarter, not harder’ deals – you should be able to, as a matter of fact, the person answering the phone should be able to take a report, depending on the report, that’s what I would expect, but that goes to this whole thing where there’s no 24-7 stations in Loudoun, either. You know, you’re driving home at night, you might see a dead deer on the road – you might say, well, I’m going right by the police station, let me report this – well, the police station’s closed at that point…you can call, but they won’t take a report, and that’s kind of a waste of manpower, especially with the limited patrols. I mean, you can get a guy from Hamilton driving to South Riding, to take a graffiti report. That should be done over the internet, or over the phone.
Q: So, I saw, in your online chat with the Loudoun Extra, that you had told Greg Ahlemann that he’s welcome to have his old job back if you get elected…I mean, you are responsible for all the hiring; what are you looking for, what’s the most important quality for that individual to have?
A: Well, there’s a few things – let me go back to the Ahlemann thing – when I did that, one, it costs a hundred thousand dollars to train a deputy. So, if I want to hire you as a deputy, by the time they do the background check, send you through the academy, driver’s training, the range, we’re paying you the whole time you’re going through all this stuff…and we pay for you to go to the academy…it’s about a hundred thousand dollars. So to hire Greg back – now, Greg didn’t get fired, he resigned to run. Now, I’ve heard stories that he should have been fired, from Simpson, but, you know…If I’m elected, obviously I would look at his file, and see were these IA investigations that were done for political reasons, because he was bad-mouthing the department, or were they legitimate IA complaints, that, maybe there’s an issue here that you need to talk about. So anyhow, I look at it now as, because integrity’s one of the big things that he claims to have, and now there’s some questions with his college education, there’s some question that he’s making up stuff that’s completely untrue – and he knows it’s untrue, he knows I didn’t say; he was at the same debate I was at – and some that Simpson brought up, actually. Simpson brought up that thing about that traffic stop that Greg talks about [the Sibrian Espinoza case], that the guy had another license, and Greg makes it seem like it was complete negligence. And when I heard Simpson’s response, it sounded like he actually did the right thing, the best they could with what they had, and he’s conveniently left parts out…at the League of Women Voters, [Simpson] got up there and said, wait a minute, this guy had a different license, different name, someone who was stopped, you know, the guy was a criminal, and should they have done something different, and there’s a few things ““ maybe the first time, if he did something that bad, they should have been starting deportation proceedings on him, and I think he crossed the border once and he came back with a different name, that’s another, that’s a 20 year offense if you get deported for a felony – but what I’m getting at is, there’s been a lot of misinformation given out. I realize some people call it politics; I call it untruthfulness.
Q; So, given what the Sheriff told us about the website that he had up, with the story about how he was kind of bragging about making people look at his tattoo when he pulled them over, I mean, would you want to have a talk with him about how he interacts with people…
A: Well, absolutely, and it might be a thing where he’s always wearing a long sleeve shirt; I haven’t seen the tattoo, so, I mean, I’ve heard descriptions of it. I haven’t seen the webpage…actually, Steve Simpson had told me the story of how he had it strategically placed on his arm, so when he’s writing tickets people have to look at it…you know, if he’s doing that, that’s one of these things where the first time somebody complains, you start where you tell him to knock it off, and then the second time you get fired. I’m not opposed to firing people for disciplinary action; I’m opposed to firing them because of political ideology. Greg’s very patriotic, very religious, and those aren’t bad qualities; but you still have to, your patriotism and your religion stays with you, you don’t try to force it on someone who’s not that way, no matter what, I don’t care who it is…and that’s a whole different issue, and that’s something that I know you’d get complaints on, that someone would be complaining if they thought that he was shoving the tattoo [at them], and that might bring up the thing we said, ‘well, guess what? From now on, you wear long sleeve shirts, either that or get rid of the tattoo.’ But like I said, I’ve never seen the tattoo, I’ve never seen the webpage, so…
Q: I guess it’s all about perception.
A: Perception is sometimes reality, unfortunately.
Q: Both of the other candidates have acknowledged to me that they’re going to be pretty limited in terms of what can be done to satisfy the folks in the community who have kind of a “˜round-em-up’ attitude about illegal immigration – that people do have due process rights – and one of our board members was even at the Help Save Loudoun meeting last night, where somebody got up and made the statement “˜if a person is here illegally, they don’t have any rights.’ I mean, people believe this.
A: Unfortunately, that’s true – that they believe that. It’s not true, but they believe it.
Q: Do you have any thoughts about what you could do as Sheriff to help dial down the rhetoric and fear around this? What information does the public need to hear?
A: Well, the first thing is, you educate the deputies. I mean, I’m hearing, I’ve heard two stories from – both of them happen to be Latino, not that they’re doing profiling – but one of them was on a car stop; they asked a girl, who works with my daughter, and who’s Latina and is here legally, if she had papers. This is on a road check, in Sterling. You can’t do that. That has to stop. That’s not probable cause, that she’s Latina, to ask ‘do you have papers.’ I mean, you can always ask, ask anything you want, but the perception there is, is Gestapo: Show me your papers. And I have a problem with that.
Q: What if she didn’t have a driver’s license, would that be probable cause?
A: If she didn’t have a driver’s license, well, you could run it, you could run it in the computer, and if she comes up with zero, then charge her, charge her with no license, tow the car; I have no problem with any of that, I mean, I want them to do their job. What I don’t want them to do, is another story, where a guy, who is a citizen, was calling in to complain about an auto tampering, and he is Mexican-American, but he was born in America, and they asked him for his green card. And that, again, is wrong. What I would have to do is tell the public, through whatever community resources available, that if this happens, I want to know about it, because I want to fix it.
Q: Now, that’s really disturbing, because Sheriff Simpson was telling me how important it is to him that the deputies get that message, the message that’s coming out of the office…
A: Well, this is under his watch.
Q: …and that kind of Gestapo perception is exactly what he’s concerned about.
A: And if he’s concerned about it, he’s right, but he has to get that word out, and you got to get people…now the problem you have, is that people don’t complain, because they’re afraid, and that’s another issue.
Q: And then you’re not getting the information you need…
A: Now I don’t know why I can get it and he can’t get it; that’s a whole other issue, why am I hearing this now, and why isn’t he hearing it? Election year? Maybe; I actually made a statement to one of the papers, I said, why don’t you just check from June to October, just the amount of articles in the paper on the Sheriff’s Office in 2007 versus 2006; I bet it’s triple. It’s because it’s a political year, and you know, it’s been very active for 6 months; that’s what’s wrong. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve knocked on doors and people had no idea who the Sheriff was ““ you’d ask them: ‘I don’t know who the Sheriff is.’ And I think that’s wrong, and how do you fix that? You don’t do exposure every four years for four months, you do exposure all the time…I’ve talked to people and they say, ‘when is the election? There’s an election this year? Sheriffs get elected?’ So, you’ve got to take everything as it comes to you…but, I’ve heard two instances, since I’ve been running, on that very issue, and that’s a big issue. Because you need that community, you need every community, to talk to you, and if they’re getting this perception, “˜oh no, this ain’t good, don’t call the police, they’re going to ask for your green card,’ we lose; it’s a quality of life issue for everyone, because if they’re not reporting crimes that they see, you don’t have to be Hispanic to be the next victim.
Q: Yeah, these guys [in the Post article referenced earlier] who are running around bashing people are loose in the community, because they’re not reporting it.
A: And you want them to report it, they might have a description, they might have heard a name, they might have, you know…when I used to work on the jumpout squad [street level narcotics in the mid 1980s], we had a guy that worked there…and we would have an undercover go with a wire, and one of the community policing guys, who was a great officer, he would be listening on our end, far away from the conversation, and the guy would walk up and buy dope from someone, and he would be able to tell by the conversation who it was and where he lived; so we would go to the guy’s house and pick him up; it was great. That’s the essence of good community policing, that you can talk to someone and say ‘I know who that guy is.’ He knew by voice, which always amazed me, his memory’s phenomenal; ‘his name’s so-and-so, he lives over here’; we’d go there, and when the chase was on, the chase was ended, he’d run to the house and there would be two guys waiting for him. It doesn’t get any better than that. That’s why you need the community to talk to you, you need officers in the communities; again, it’s the essence of police work.
Q: It’s all about the information. I think we’ve covered everything here, is there anything else you’d like our readers to know?
A: I think, what you have to look at is eliminating party when you go to the Sheriff’s Office. [It’s a] non-political office. We don’t make laws, we enforce them, as I said earlier…what an AG says you do, you do, whether you believe in it or not, you know? Someone asked me about abortion; if the law comes out, that it’s against the law, and somebody’s committing an abortion, we arrest them; if it’s not against the law, we leave them alone. That’s our job ““ whatever your political or religious beliefs may be, you have to go with what the law is, you’re not above the law, and that’s something they need to keep in mind, because you want someone that understands the law. The other thing is, the Policeman’s Benevolent Association, the Loudoun County chapter, has 200 deputies. If you were to ask anyone in Loudoun County what the Sheriff’s Office needs most, I would go to deputies and say ‘what’s wrong, and what do we need to do to fix it.’ They’re there every day, they know what’s wrong, they’re not stupid people. Steve Simpson said he didn’t seek their endorsement because he doesn’t like to involve politics with the deputies. But the Sheriff’s Association doesn’t apply. Also, the president of the PBA was told he would lose his job when he ran the union, if he didn’t break up the union, by Steve Simpson, so there’s probably another reason why he didn’t seek their endorsement. And Greg Ahlemann, as much as he likes to talk about how I’m out of touch with reality, these guys on the board, on the interview board, there are at least three Loudoun County deputies. These guys that work with Greg, they know how he works – so either my experience is really good, or his work performance is really bad, because they endorsed me.
Q: One of the commenters on our blog today was talking about how the deputies support Greg because he was on the street, doing patrols.
A: And that’s absolutely not true, I can tell you that right now. That’s another new meaning of integrity. That’s 100% not true. 200 deputies are members of the PBA, Loudoun County deputies; they endorsed me. Greg and I competed for that process, so, and I can tell you another thing, I have guys all over the place with George stickers on their car, and I have deputies coming up and giving me the thumbs up. There might be a handful of people that Greg worked with, but the majority in the department supports me over Greg, and maybe me over Steve, because they want a change that they think is necessary; the general public isn’t aware of what goes on in a lot of internal stuff; like I said, Steve’s telling them “˜I didn’t seek their endorsement because I don’t like to mix politics with the deputies.’ Well, you didn’t seek their endorsement because Brian Curtis, the president of the PBA, was the president of the union, and you told him you were going to fire him if he didn’t break up the union; that’s probably more like it, a truer version of why you didn’t seek their endorsement.
Q: Well, thank you very much, we really appreciate your time. We look forward to seeing you on the blog when you get a chance.
Please leave your questions for Mike George in the comments.