JORGE AMSELLE

Jorge Amselle

Editor’s note: This is one in a series of question and answer articles about local candidates running for office. The Northern Virginia Daily asked candidates three questions. The unedited responses are below.

Four candidates - Jorge Amselle, Jason Poe, Mark Butler and Michael "Mickey" Licklider - are running for the seat vacated by the former Sheriff Daniel McEathron, who died earlier this year.

How do you believe the public perceives the Warren County Sheriff's Office after the suicide of former Sheriff Daniel McEathron, who was one of the defendants in the Front Royal-Warren County Economic Development Authority's $17.6 million lawsuit? Has that resulted in a lack of public trust of the office, and if so, how would you solve that issue?

The sudden and tragic death of Sheriff McEathron has left our community stunned and saddened and we all pray for his family. The allegations made against Sheriff McEathron and others have undeniably contributed to a lack of trust in our elected officials and county leaders. Regardless, the citizens of Warren County have a deep faith in their Sheriff’s office and the work of the deputies, but we must not take that support for granted. We need a significant commitment to full transparency from our county government. I have already committed myself to that by releasing the questions all of the Sheriff’s candidates received from the VA Police Benevolent Association and my responses. I again urge the other candidates for Sheriff to do the same. We also need real accountability. In a county as small as ours and in a Sheriff’s office as close knit, we cannot investigate ourselves. We have to use independent outside agencies to investigate any allegation of criminal wrongdoing by any county officials or employees.

What is the main operational aspect of the Sheriff's Office that you would change?

Operationally I would like to see a greater emphasis placed on diversion over incarceration, especially for non-violent misdemeanor offenses. I would like to introduce more early intervention programs to address issues such as substance abuse, mental health, and homelessness before they require a law enforcement response. One example is taking a comprehensive approach when dealing with evictions to either address the underlying problem or ensure that any families that are evicted have access to housing. By using a more proactive approach we can better serve the community and make the most efficient use of the taxpayer’s money while achieving better results. I will work collaboratively with federal, state, regional, and local, social service agencies, non-profit organizations, and faith-based groups to coordinate the use of our resources to improve the lives and outcomes for the residents of Warren County.

What is the biggest threat to public safety and how will you battle that problem?

In 2018 the Warren County Sheriff’s Office made a total of 484 arrests. Drug and alcohol related offenses were the lion’s share of that total. The next largest group of offenses were property crimes related to larceny, theft, and vandalism. Substance abuse plays a role in many of the offenses committed in the county. There is also the issue that many people suffering from mental illness and trauma self-medicate with drugs and alcohol. Targeting drug dealers that spread poison in our community must remain a priority and we will continue to work collaboratively with other law enforcement agencies to fight the scourge of drugs. However, enforcement alone cannot solve the issue of addiction or mental health. The far greater problem is not the supply of drugs but the demand for them. We need to work as a community to address this and ensure that those in need have access to addiction treatment and mental health services. I am also a strong supporter of bringing drug court to Warren County, as other communities have done. This is not a panacea but one positive step in the right direction to help people avoid incarceration. In this way they can remain as contributing members of our community, supporting themselves and their families while committing themselves to restitution for their wrongdoing. We are very fortunate to live in a low crime community. By working together, we can keep our community safe and achieve better outcomes as well.