A needed investigation

Published 8:19 am Friday, July 2, 2010

The citizens of Isle of Wight County — and Sheriff C.W. “Charlie” Phelps — should welcome a Virginia State Police investigation of the role that a four-time convicted felon played in the sheriff’s department over the past decade.

Only the findings of an impartial entity like the State Police can begin to tame the uproar that has resulted from accusations that Jonathan Burns, who is related to the sheriff’s son by marriage, went far beyond the duties of a volunteer. Burns is alleged to have worn a uniform and badge, carried a Taser and participated in arrests.

The flap has heightened hostilities between Phelps and Commonwealth’s Attorney Wayne Farmer, jeopardized some criminal prosecutions and prompted a self-proclaimed civil rights group to demand Phelps’ resignation and call for a state investigation of Farmer for alleged prosecutorial misconduct.

Isle of Wight County doesn’t need this distraction and unfavorable attention from regional media.

Phelps, who insists he knowingly did nothing wrong, has pledged an internal investigation and to take corrective action where needed. Unfortunately, Phelps, a veteran lawman who has served Isle of Wight County honorably for many years, is in no position to lead a credible investigation. Burns’ decade of service under Phelps’ watch and the felon’s connection to Phelps’ son, an Isle of Wight deputy, demands an investigation by an objective party.

We urge Isle of Wight citizens and other interested observers to await the conclusions of that review before casting judgment and making hasty demands for Phelps’ resignation.