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  • Question about Virginia Law Enforcement

    Hey guys,
    I'm from Ohio and currently looking to join a law enforcement agency in Virginia near the Washington DC area. I was doing some research about departments in the area and was wondering what an "idependent" city was. Also, I was wondering what the difference between a county police and sheriff department is in virginia because in Ohio, the police serve only a city while the sheriff departments serve the unincorperated areas of the entire county. The Virginia way of policing an area is kind of confusing me.

    Do most county police departments start you as a patrol officer or in the jail and are the pay/benefits pretty good? Any departments anyone would recommend applying at?

    Finally, is it fairly easy to get a job in the DC metro area of Virginia or is it extremly competitive?

    Thank you for your time.
    Last edited by wdr2; 01-16-2007, 10:32 PM.

  • #2
    [QUOTE=wdr2]Hey guys,
    I'm from Ohio and currently looking to join a law enforcement agency in Virginia near the Washington DC area. I was doing some research about departments in the area and was wondering what an "idependent" city was. Also, I was wondering what the difference between a county police and sheriff department is in virginia because in Ohio, the police serve only a city while the sheriff departments serve the unincorperated areas of the entire county. The Virginia way of policing an area is kind of confusing me.

    Do most county police departments start you as a patrol officer or in the jail and are the pay/benefits pretty good? Any departments anyone would recommend applying at?
    QUOTE]

    I'll try to respond to this to the best of my knowledge.

    In VA, all cities are independent. No city resides within county limits. However there are cities and counties with the same name (Roanoke, Fairfax, etc.). And most cities have there own sheriffs office to handle the city jail and courts, plus some do patrol (especially in rural areas.) Also, in sheriffs office's in VA, deputies are hired at the discretion of the sheriff. If the sheriff doesn't like you or if a new one is elected and he/she wants to clean house, they can do so without any explanation. Whereas with a PD, after an officer is off probation, he/she has to screw up pretty bad to lose there job.

    As far as the County Police vs. City Police, theres not a whole heckuva lot difference other than Jurisdictions and patrol areas.

    Hope this helps.

    Comment


    • #3
      Northern Virginia

      Most counties in the Northern Virginia/DC area have County Police. Originally run by Sheriff's Departments, most counties of a larger population have passed a referendum in order to establish a county police force. Cities have there own police. These cities are not part of the county, but are solely independent, unlike the Midwest where cities fall within the county bureaucratic/politic/taxing structure.

      In Northern VA / DC area, County Police are THE POLICE. In areas where County Police exist, County Sheriffs run the courts, the jail, and do civil process.

      The police departments in NOVA are very competitive and selective. Sheriff's Offices are somewhat less particular, but still competitive.
      Last edited by grumpyirishman; 01-17-2007, 07:04 AM.
      "We sleep safe in our beds because rough men stand ready in the night to visit violence on those who would do us harm" -George Orwell

      "It's 106 miles to Chicago, we've got a full tank of gas, half a pack of cigarettes, it's dark, and we're wearing diapers." - Blues Brothers

      Comment


      • #4
        Same as MD. Very competitive and selective. However, many departments are rigourously looking for officers.
        Pay is pretty good all throughout the D.C. Area. However, cost of housing is very high as well. Many officers do not have enough money to live where they work.
        COMPLACENCY KILLS COPS.

        Sean Taylor - 21 - Never Forget

        "When you were born, you cried and the world rejoiced. Live your life so that when you die, the world cries and you rejoice."

        Comment


        • #5
          VA Beach always looking for officers. Cost of living is constantly moving up here. Bought my home for just over $100K and now it's supposedly worth $300K. I'd never pay that much for it though. In this close area VA Beach is the best paid. We have anywhere from 750-800 officers although our full strength is supposed to be over 800 we never seem to make it there.
          Good luck..

          CrazyTed
          Va Bch, VA

          Disabled after 12 Years
          www.CrazyTed.us

          Comment


          • #6
            Originally posted by GoGo Gadget
            Yeah, but I hear they toss ya if you get hurt.
            You got that one right.... Boy has this been an educational experience...

            CrazyTed
            Va Bch, VA

            Disabled after 12 Years
            www.CrazyTed.us

            Comment


            • #7
              Are u seroius about being tossed if hurt. Where is the support at on that one. I got to be missing something. Crazy Ted help me out here cause I am looking around to find a long term home and your place was atop my short list but my mouth dropped when I read that one.

              Comment


              • #8
                Uhm, not exactly. Many cities are within a County.


                Virginia is a very unusual state in this regard. While the cities are "independent" and not considered part of a county per se, they always appear on maps to lie within geographical boundaries of their surrounding counties. {Ex: Manassas and Manassas Park look like they are "in" Prince William County; and Fredericksburg appears to be contained inside Spotsylvania County.}

                Most, but not all, cities have their own schools, police departments and sheriff's offices. Their political structure differs as well. Traditonal cities have a mayor/council form of government most of the time, while counties often have an adminstrator/supervisor system.

                Richmond, Norfolk, Fairfax, Petersburg, Fredericksburg and VA Beach are some 'independent' cities that have their own police department and sheriff's office. It is a safe bet they run their own school districts as well. Williamsburg & James City County have separate PDs from each other, but share a combined sheriff's office. (I think Manassas uses Prince William County for sheriff's services as well, even though they have different PDs.)


                Now, to make matters worse, there are also "towns" in Virginia (such as West Point, Ashland, Dumfries, Colonial Beach, etc., etc.) that actually do lie within the boundaries of a county and are not independent cities. The deputies/officers of the counties containing them do have jurisdiction within town limits and often serve as 'secondary' responders when necessary.


                A town may or may not have its own police force, fire department or schools - and may or may not share some of these functions with the surrounding county. A town may also have extra amenities that a county might not provide - including trash collection or street lights (but will also have higher taxes)


                Some are independant, like Falls Church and Alexandria. Those have their own Sheriff's Office. Fairfax, Leesburg, Manassas are within the counties (Fairfax, Loudoun, Prince William) and do not have a Sheriff's Office. The residents pay city and county taxes but the cities have their own government. The Deputies in those counties have jurisdiction in the city and the county.

                Not sure, but isn't Leesburg a town and not a city? Kind of like Warrenton, Colonial Beach, Ashland or Dumfries, I think.

                Isn't this just a weird state?


                P.S. Some people who live in a 'town' must pay their normal county taxes, but are also hit with an extra levy to support extra services provided by the town. No thanks!

                The comments above reflect my personal opinion as a private citizen, ordinary motorist and all-around good guy.

                The aforementioned advice should not be construed to represent any type of professional opinion, legal counsel or other type of instruction with regard to traffic laws, judicial proceedings or official agency policy.

                ------------------------------------------------

                "Ignorance on fire is hotter than knowledge on ice."

                Comment


                • #9
                  Originally posted by GoGo Gadget
                  Uhm, not exactly. Many cities are within a County. Some are independant, like Falls Church and Alexandria. Those have their own Sheriff's Office. Fairfax, Leesburg, Manassas are within the counties (Fairfax, Loudoun, Prince William) and do not have a Sheriff's Office. The residents pay city and county taxes but the cities have their own government. The Deputies in those counties have jurisdiction in the city and the county.

                  Everybody around here is hiring. All the NoVa agencies pay about the same, within a few thousand of each other. But their is a big difference in retirement and other benefits.
                  Sorry bout that....I guess I'm just about as confussed as some of the others.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by SERTDEPUTY
                    Are u seroius about being tossed if hurt. Where is the support at on that one. I got to be missing something. Crazy Ted help me out here cause I am looking around to find a long term home and your place was atop my short list but my mouth dropped when I read that one.
                    It's not a bad place to work. But with VA being a right to work state and the policies of the city, things can get really weird. The city policy is if you are injured on duty, you have one year to return to full-duty status. If you are injured off-duty, you have six months to return to duty. If you can't return to duty, the city will terminate you. Now that usually isn't a problem with an on-duty injury as the VA Retirement System will usually approve your retirement. My problem is you can't just take an x-ray or MRI of my brain and see the injury. Another officer who was injured around the same time as me has already has his retirement approved and is on his was to VRS retirement. My paperwork has been sent to the VRS medical review committee. They will make the final decision about my case. Doctors say I can't work as officer again but the VRS isn't sure is isn't bunk. Now I have to have surgery on my right hand as I have a tumor in it. It just keeps rolling on in....

                    CrazyTed
                    Va Bch, VA

                    Disabled after 12 Years
                    www.CrazyTed.us

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Sheriff & Police


                      Just to add to what was said before about VA law enforcement.

                      As you know, we have both sheriff's offices and police departments. In most places, especially those with a police department, sheriff's deputies will be primarily used for courthouse security, prisoner transport, serving warrants, running the jail, delivering subpoenas, etc., etc. Answering calls for service, doing traffic stops, general patrol duties or investigating criminal activity are most often handled by the police department.

                      In places without a police department (such as a rural county where I worked), the sheriff's office will be responsible for handling just about everything - both with court services and patrol. All of our deputies were 'law enforcement' certified, while some places have deputies who are just 'jailers' or 'civil process' only. You can tell by the uniform in some places (as jailers or transport deputies may wear a different shirt than those who do patrol duty), but most of the time you cannot. Some counties use brown cars for civil process and white cars for patrol, etc., etc.

                      It's pretty much up to each sheriff how they want to run their county, and the sheriff has total authority to run his office as he sees fit - so long as he is held accountable to the residents/voters in his county. Sheriffs are elected every four years in VA (with 2003, 2007 and 2011 being election years), and all of them are up for replacement this upcoming November. Each county and (with very few exceptions) independent city has its own sheriff - some with law enforcement duties and others that are just jail/civil process/court security.

                      An anomoly among counties is probably Albemarle. It is located near Charlottesville and has both a sheriff's office and a full-service police department. I have seen deputy sheriffs equipped with radar guns who make traffic stops and who appear to also be answering calls. Not sure if anyone thinks their toes are getting stepped on down there, but I guess the chief of police and the elected sheriff must have some sort of gentleman's agreement about why they are doing that. Maybe someone who lives in that area can give us some more information. I travel through there once in a blue moon, so I am not very familiar with the local customs.


                      If you work for a PD as an officer, your boss will be a "chief" and you have some level of civil service protection. Your badge will usually look like a shield and your uniform may be blue, grey, black, green, tan or even white. The chief is appointed by and will serve at the direction of a mayor or city council (in an independent city or even a town) - or possibly a county administrator or board of supervisors if you work in a suburban county. He is a bit more limited in how he runs things than a sheriff, though.

                      If you are a 'deputy' in a sheriff's office, your uniform will be some shade of brown, your badge will by a five-pointed star, the "sheriff" will be your boss and you pretty much serve at his mercy. All sheriffs are elected by the voters of their county or city. Should he lose the election (or retire) and be replaced, the new guy could send you out the door because he doesn't like your hair color.


                      Sheriff's offices and police departments both have their ups and downs, and both can provide many people tremendous growth and advancement opportunities; but a sheriff's office is definitely going to have more "politics" than will a PD. Fortunately, there will be less off it in a larger agency than in a smaller one. It's a lot more difficult for a sheriff with 150 deputies to "clean house" than one who has ten.

                      As large as this state is and with so many different agencies, you'll undoubtedly find one that suits your tastes. The nice thing is that if you can find one and put in three good years, you can "lateral" almost anywhere except for the state police (they put everyone through the same academy).

                      Good luck to all of you!!
                      Last edited by VA Dutch; 01-20-2007, 08:33 AM.

                      The comments above reflect my personal opinion as a private citizen, ordinary motorist and all-around good guy.

                      The aforementioned advice should not be construed to represent any type of professional opinion, legal counsel or other type of instruction with regard to traffic laws, judicial proceedings or official agency policy.

                      ------------------------------------------------

                      "Ignorance on fire is hotter than knowledge on ice."

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by GoGo Gadget
                        Nope. Fairfax does not have it's own SO. I had to look up Fredericksburg tho, I had no idea it had it's own SO.

                        Fairfax County has an S.O, but I assume you say that the city doesn't have one. By the way, I see Fairfax S.O. cars on I-95 sometimes. Great looking cars!! (But WTF is with the Tomar light bars, eh?)


                        Ah, yes, Fredericksburg (independent city) does indeed have its own sheriff's office. They use white cars, too; just like their PD. However, the lettering and light bars are different. Don't know if they do any law enforcement duty, though. I just see them driving around, but they look a lot like a PD from a distance.


                        Yep, you are right.

                        Here in Fairfax, we have two towns and one city. As a deputy, I have jurisdiction in all of them. While doing some training witht the county PD motors, my PD partner and I were riding through Fairfax City and a guy passed us in a school zone. My partner blipped his siren at him to slow him down. I said, "Should have let him go, I would have stroked him." He smacked his forehead and said, "Oh yeah. I keep forgetting you have jurisdiction here." He never could get that concept down.

                        The more I learn, the more I realize that this is one strange state. Kind of reminds me of the feudal system of the Middle Ages. Hard to tell who has jurisdiction where, but the best thing to know is that if it has blue lights you should be on your best behavior.

                        Even deputies without "law enforcement" duties still have radios, though, and help is just a call away.

                        BTW, we had a "town" inside my county when I was a deputy sheriff - and they had their own PD. We pretty much drove through it and only served as secondary responders, although a blatant violation would warrant a stop. Of course, we also served civil papers (subpoenas, etc.) there because the town PD did not do that kind of thing.

                        We had a good relationship with the town PD - both between our sheriff and their chief, and our deputies with his officers. Those guys would always come out to help us if we need it, and vice-versa.


                        Whether you wore a tan uniform, a brown one, a green one, a blue one or a black one.......it mattered not. Everyone should be on the same team!

                        The comments above reflect my personal opinion as a private citizen, ordinary motorist and all-around good guy.

                        The aforementioned advice should not be construed to represent any type of professional opinion, legal counsel or other type of instruction with regard to traffic laws, judicial proceedings or official agency policy.

                        ------------------------------------------------

                        "Ignorance on fire is hotter than knowledge on ice."

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by VA Dutch
                          [color=blue]
                          Richmond, Norfolk, Fairfax, Petersburg, Fredericksburg and VA Beach are some 'independent' cities that have their own police department and sheriff's office.
                          Wow! When did Fairfax City get their own Sheriff's Department? I lived up there up until '91 and at the time, they used the Fairfax County Sheriff's Dept and Fairfax County jail.

                          I guess alot has changed since I moved away.

                          Charlie
                          When you are truly transformed into a warrior and have truly invested yourself into warriorhood, you want to be there. You want to be able to make a difference.
                          From the essay "TRIBES" by Bill Whittle

                          Comment


                          • #14

                            Charlie,

                            Fairfax County has a sheriff's office which also (according to the post from GoGo above) handles stuff in the city. While the city and county apparently share a sheriff's office, I know they have separate police departments because I have seen their cars. (Fairfax County cars are a dark blue color with white hoods, roofs and trunks. The Fairfax City cruisers are just plain white, I believe.)



                            Fairfax County PD Cars: http://members.fortunecity.com/pdcar4/fair.htm



                            Nonetheless, the majority of "independent" cities have departments that operate apart from each other. Richmond, Norfolk, VA Beach, Petersburg, Fredericksburg and (probably) Roanoke work that way. Manassas uses the Prince William County Sheriff's Office, however, even though it is an 'independent' city.

                            I swear this is one of the oddest states in the country.


                            It used to be that nearly every sheriff's office used cars that were "turd brown" in color, but now a lot of them changed to white. Some use gold, tan, dark green or even blue.


                            P.S. It is a minor point, but in VA the proper term is "sheriff's office" and not department. Police have 'departments', while sheriffs have 'offices'. They get it wrong all the time in the news media. Heck, I never knew that until I began the academy.
                            Last edited by VA Dutch; 01-21-2007, 08:45 PM.

                            The comments above reflect my personal opinion as a private citizen, ordinary motorist and all-around good guy.

                            The aforementioned advice should not be construed to represent any type of professional opinion, legal counsel or other type of instruction with regard to traffic laws, judicial proceedings or official agency policy.

                            ------------------------------------------------

                            "Ignorance on fire is hotter than knowledge on ice."

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              crazy ted

                              Sorry to hear about that my friend I hope it all works out for the best.
                              I will continue to keep them on my short list and will send some questions at you when the time comes. I got one right now, is there a big gang problem there i am seeing the spraying and things going on but how bad is it to you.
                              We have a little issue hear where I am at it seems to be brewing in the high schools.

                              Comment

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