By Gerald Foreman
Providing for public safety and ensuring our brave men and women in law enforcement have the tools they need to do their jobs effectively is among the top priorities of any elected official. In the Town of Dumfries, where I serve as Mayor, that responsibility took on added meaning a couple years ago.
As many of you know, the reputation of the Dumfries Police Department took a big hit in 2010 when there was major turnover within the Department, including the Chief and Assistant Chief, following an investigation into wrongdoing and mismanagement by the Virginia State Police and Virginia Department of Criminal Justice, as well as an internal investigation.
After being elected Mayor in 2012, I worked closely with the new Town Manager and Police Chief to restore the image of the Dumfries PD. As a 25-year Mustang Marine, I uniquely understand the importance of providing strong leadership and clear direction so people can do their jobs effectively.
To that end, I have forcefully advocated for reforms that would â€œrightâ€ our police department. My priority as Mayor has been to make sure our police force was the â€œright size,â€ was tasked with the â€œright missionâ€ and had the â€œright equipmentâ€ to do the job and do it well. In addition, as part of that effort, we also took the following actions:
· Placed a School Resource Officer (SRO) at Dumfries Elementary School. Having one of our police officers serve an SRO has allowed the students to form a relationship built on mutual trust and respect with law enforcement at an early age.
· Launched a Police Academy for kids â€“ run every year at no cost to participants. The 2015 Academy was the largest graduating class with 35 children.
· Set aside money in the Capital Improvement Plan for a new police station, while still lowering the townâ€™s property tax rate.
· Initiated a bike patrol to allow officers to better move within the community and along running and bike trails, while also allowing more personal interaction with residents.
· Instituted a program where police officers attend Homeowner Association meetings on a regular basis to answer citizen questions directly and listen to their concerns.
Thanks to those efforts, I am proud to report that when comparing 2013 and 2014 with 2010, the FBIâ€™s Uniform Crime Report shows that serious crimes like rape, robbery and aggravated assault are all down in Dumfries. Thatâ€™s a credit to our force and the job they do every day. I congratulate them on their efforts and am honored to serve our town with them.
Given the stateâ€™s economy flat-lining in recent years, rising crime has increasingly become an issue in many parts of our state, making the need for smart, tough policy out of Richmond even more important to keep our citizens as safe as possible. Unfortunately, my opponent, a Delegate serving in the house – Mr. Scott Surovell isnâ€™t helping matters.
Here are just a sampling of Delegate Surovellâ€™s head-in-the-sand votes from recent years:
· Surovell, a lawyer who defends drunk drivers in private practice, sponsored legislation that would help his potential clients by reducing penalties for convicted drunk drivers. He also voted against mandatory sentences for drunk drivers who kill someone on the road.
· Surovell voted to conceal the identity of convicted sex offenders from being listed on the state registry for crimes against minors, preventing parents from knowing if they moved into their neighborhood and next to schools. Additionally, he voted against allowing life-sentences for child rapists.
· Surovell opposed authorizing use of physical force against intruders.
· Surovell voted against â€œHannahâ€™s Law,â€ which passed with overwhelming bipartisan support after the murder of college student Hannah Graham. The law allows law enforcement officers to collect DNA samples of convicted stalkers and pedophiles to help prevent future crimes.
· And while Delegate Surovell was going soft on convicted criminals, he voted to allow the government to use electronic monitoring devices to track the location of law-abiding citizens without their consent.
· Whether the issue is jobs and the economy, Route 1 improvements, ethics reform or public safety, the election for State Senate in the 36th District this year comes down to whose priorities are more in line with your own on the issues that matter most to you.
I trust you to make that judgement for yourselves based on the facts. I have supported Fairfax, Stafford and Prince William counties since elected Mayor; my track record speaks for itself. I ask you compare Delegate Surovellâ€™s voting record against what he is saying during an election year campaign.