The two major party candidates for Fairfax County sheriff faced off against each other Tuesday night on live local television, fielding questions from a panel of journalists.
Democratic nominee Stacey A. Kincaid, and her Republican opponent Bryan “B.A.” Wolfe, outlined their political differences during the one-hour forum on the Reston Community television show, Reston Impact.
Wolfe, who says he is an outsider hoping to revitalize what he has called a “very insular, inward-looking department that is resistant to new ideas,” pushed for the implementation of a Crisis Intervention Team to better deal with what he says is an increasing amount of mentally ill individuals currently mixed in with hardcore criminals in the Fairfax County Adult Detention Center. He also repeatedly advocated for increased use of video cameras within the facility.
Kincaid, whos says she has a 26-year veteran’s inside perspective, showed clear concerns for what she says are annual budget cuts that are already adversely affecting the Sheriff’s Office, lackluster community outreach, and poor diversity within the department.
“It is not fiscally responsible to introduce technologies costing hundreds of thousands of dollars,” Kincaid responded to Wolfe’s advocacy of more video cameras. “The Sheriff’s Office budget gets cut 5 percent every year, and there is no fat to cut.”
Kincaid called the Fairfax County Adult Detention Center a “model facility” and said money would be better spent hiring a permanent Human Resource Officer and creating additional civil enforcement officer positions.
But Wolfe said more video cameras and a CIT are desperately needed, and that there are ways to pay for them.
“I see the CIT as a critical need item,” Wolfe said. “There is actually extra money in this budget. Sheriff Mark Sites returned $1.8 million to the county, as I recall. There is actually fat to cut, and many of the items I am suggesting qualify for federal grants, as well.”
Wolfe said that if elected, he would also determine what he described as “necessary tools” and eliminate those items within the department not making the cut.
“It won’t make me popular with motor officers, but I would go as far as looking into eliminating motorcycles if they are not deemed as necessary tools for the sheriff’s office,” he said.
Wolfe and Kincaid also differed greatly on the issue of revenues brought into the sheriff’s office from the selling of phone cards and phone services at a profit to inmates.
According to the Sheriff’s office, in 2011 — the last year for which figures are available — the department made $500,000 in annual revenues from those sales.
“I do not support making a profit on the backs of inmates,” Kincaid said. “Studies have shown that calls made to family by inmates reduces recidivism, and they should be provided.”
Wolfe, who said he has spent countless hours “listening in” to inmate calls in his capacity as a police officer, said he had no issues with allowing inmates to pay for social calls that he said are often graphic in nature and often not family-oriented. “When you are incarcerated, you are allowed to receive money to pay for your graphic social calls,” he said. “I have no heartburn over inmates using their own money to finance graphic phone calls.”
Asked about the Sheriff’s Office use of the Secure Communities program, which allows federal immigration authorities to check the legal status of those arrested through a national database after being provided the inmate’s fingerprints, both candidates said it could be better utilized.
According to U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement, Julio Blanco-Garcia, convicted of the premeditated murder of 19-year-old Vanessa Pham in 2010, had three misdemeanor arrests in Fairfax County from 2004-2011, but was never fingerprinted until he was arrested for her murder in 2012. The Sheriff’s Office currently does not fingerprint offenders of common misdemeanors such as traffic violations, trespassing or public intoxication, according to the office.
When asked about Blanco-Garcia, Kincaid said the program’s relationship with the Sheriff’s Office could be improved on the federal side. “Our involvement with Secure Communities is currently very limited,” she said. “The federal government can only deport a certain number of illegals each year.”
Wolfe replied that the Sheriff’s Office needed to step up and fingerprint more individuals.
“I believe there is a certain high-priority status that an inmate currently has to achieve in order to be run through Secure Communities,” he said. “I think we need to lower that priority standard and begin fingerprinting for more misdemeanor offenses.”
The sheriff’s candidate forum on Reston Impact can be seen in its entirety online at www.rctv28.com