Every year sheriff’s offices and police departments are faced with difficult hiring decisions. We all seek only those of the highest character, integrity, and past conduct yet even then are faced with the time and cost of law enforcement education and training. Since taking office eighteen months ago, Sheriff Roger Harris, Spotsylvania County, has included in his hiring program specific efforts to take advantage of the wealth of professional law enforcement experience and training that is available in his community. The benefits to the tax payers are huge and to the department they are immeasurable.
The sheriff’s office has developed and inaugurated an Auxiliary Division already comprised of nine state-certified, sworn deputies with additional expansion planned as the division grows its mission and accomplishments. At nearly five hundred donated hours per month, the deputies in this division dedicate their time to serving the community at no salary cost to the taxpayers. Their backgrounds include law enforcement, military, and emergency communications experience and all have met the same qualifications and background investigation criteria as full time officers. They are a credit to their own prior organizations and a true asset to the community. Furthermore, over time they provide a ready pool of qualified, experienced, fully vetted applicants for career opportunities as they occur.
Sheriff Harris has also approved and promoted a new Volunteers in Police Services (VIPS) program that is to begin in July of this year. County residents with considerable talents and knowledge will be volunteering their time so as to help make a difference in both office administration and community functions. Their expertise in event planning, training, strategic organizational planning, and business management will be utilized throughout the year. They will also assist with serving the public at the Spotsylvania Towne Center substation and thereby increase accessibility to the sheriff’s office for everyone.
With regard to sworn law enforcement officers and support staff the sheriff has succeeded in hiring those with many years of law enforcement experience and those who come to him from the minority community. They bring exceptional talent to the county and have come from the federal, state, county, and local levels. These include ATF, Homeland Security, Game and Inland Fisheries, and the Virginia ABC as well as sheriff’s offices in Stafford, Fauquier, and Westmoreland counties and police departments in Fairfax, Fredericksburg, Dallas, and the Washington Airports Authority. The many years of specialized training and experience include traffic and homicide investigations, forensics, firearms and motorcycle officer training, boating accident investigations, alcohol beverage control, animal control and investigations, senior level department administration, and court security and jail operations.
Since taking office Sheriff Harris has been very successful in reaching across all lines to identify and hire the best applicants. Approximately fifty percent of new personnel are female and eleven percent are minorities and he continues to strongly encourage qualified candidates from these groups to consider careers with the agency.
And finally, Sheriff Harris is especially proud that a prior Spotsylvania sheriff has returned to his office after a more than forty year career. He was previously appointed by then-Governor Warner to serve as a liaison to all sheriffs in the Commonwealth and now brings to us experience that allows our office to best serve the public through proactive means.