IOW sheriff candidates appear at forum

Published 10:51 am Friday, October 28, 2011

WALTERS—The three candidates for Isle of Wight County Sheriff said building relationships with other agencies and cooperation within the county’s court system was important.

During a Thursday forum at Walter Ruritan Club, incumbent Charlie Phelps said he has an agreement to work with departments in Franklin, Windsor and Virginia Beach.

“I’m willing to work with anyone when it gets down to the bare facts,” Phelps said.

He said the office also works well with the Suffolk Police Department, but noted that the department’s relationship with Commonwealth Attorney Wayne Farmer and the Franklin Police Department had become strained.

“I used to get along with Franklin until this campaign,” Phelps said. “I used to get along with the commonwealth’s attorney….”

He said the strained relationships would not keep him from doing his job if re-elected.

“Will we ever be friends again? Probably not,” Phelps said of Farmer. “But it won’t keep us from working to help the citizens.”

Challenger Mark Marshall said he has a great relationship with the Windsor and Franklin police departments as chief of the Smithfield Police Department and has endorsements from Farmer and IOW Clerk of Courts Sharon Jones.

“We’ll continue these partnerships,” Marshall said. “You’ve got to be able to garner the resources of other departments.”

Challenger Jim Crotts, a lieutenant with the Hampton Police Department, said he and Farmer would have a good relationship and he would also work with chiefs in other departments.

The candidates also discussed getting the sheriff’s office accredited.

Marshall said that gaining accreditation would allow for greater transparency of the implementation of policies. It also would keep the department in line with state and national standards.

Marshall admitted that the process would not be without cost to the county, but there are ways to help make it more cost effective.

He said Smithfield has a part-time civilian position that reviews and helps maintain accreditation.

“It started as a sworn position, but it was too expensive,” Marshall said. “We needed all the sworn positions on the streets.”

Marshall said the cost reduction to insurance for the department would more than offset the costs associated with maintaining proper accreditation.

Crotts agreed that a part-time civilian could do the job in order to keep costs down.

“At the state level it won’t be a full-time job,” he said.

Phelps said he has been working on getting the sheriff’s office accredited for about 18 months. Officers are working on it, but when calls come in, they are needed elsewhere and it slows the process down.

“It has to be done,” Phelps said. “It’s a complicated process that costs a lot of time and money.”