By Terry Harris
At last Thursday’s Sussex County Board of Supervisors meeting, Action Item 6.02 Waverly Law Enforcement/Dispatch Agreement introduced the new plan placing the Town of Waverly under the same agreement as the town of Wakefield has long had with the sheriff’s department. The plan was unanimously accepted by the board.
As explained at the meeting, an agreement was reached “with the Town of Waverly for law enforcement/dispatch services effective May 2021” and “is modeled on the existing agreement between Sussex County and the Town of Wakefield, and has been reviewed by administrative staff, the Sheriff, and the County Attorney.”
The plan had been previously agreed to by the Waverly Town Council, which was strongly represented at this first BOS return to in-person meeting, and was described in the county manager’s recommendation as, “designed to be cost-neutral for the county but will also be beneficial to the county in providing additional law enforcement and dispatch support.”
According to the “POLICE SERVICES AGREEMENT By and Between The Town of Waverly, Virginia and Sussex County, Virginia and The Sheriff of Sussex County, Virginia,” (available in its entirety in the BOS packet with the April 15 Agenda) as of May 1, 2021 “The Sheriff, pursuant to this Agreement, shall be the Town’s Chief of Police as provided by statute, pursuant to Virginia Code § 15.2-1726, as amended.” It goes on to say that “The County agrees, and the Sheriff consents hereto, to provide and furnish law enforcement services in the Town” and “The Sheriff and any deputy sheriff serving as a town law enforcement officer shall have the authority to enforce such town’s ordinances describing criminal acts. Likewise, the Sheriff and deputy sheriffs, while serving as a town’s law enforcement officers, shall have the same powers, rights, benefits, privileges and immunities as those of regular town police officers.”
After the meeting, Sheriff Giles related that it took him three years to reach the decision that agreeing to make the change was the proper course of action.
“During those three years, I have seen things not of character through the Waverly PD,” he said. “There have been good people, but some things have come into question. When more and more citizens asked me to take over or lead the Police Department, I finally had to say to myself, ‘I’m a citizen of the town as well as the leading law enforcement officer. Why not step up, as requested?’ I have had multiple meetings over the course of several months, and we finally made a decision as a staff to agree.”
Asked about changes to be expected, Giles said, “We will have policies just as in Wakefield, and the first thing I told the council was that 1) I requested a 3% increase - a study among five departments of pay rates - including dispatch and patrol, 2) that no one will lose their benefits, and 3) no one will lose their job. I held to my promise, and no one has, nor will they, unless they chose to leave by not adhering to the policies that will be in place, because, as in any job some things cannot be tolerated.”
“So yes, there will be changes to make this structurally sound,” he continued, “but I’d like to make it clear that myself, the council, and the mayor made the decision together based on the benefit of the community, based on community interaction with citizens.”
“Again, this was not the sole decision of any one person,” he added, “and my hat is off to the Mayor because she has had to deal with all manner of false information on the street, as have I. But this is a well thought out decision for the benefit of all citizens, and I stand by it. We are going to do our best to move this department forward working together as one for the best for the citizens of our community.”
When asked about her take on the agreement, Mayor McPhaul said, “Sheriff Giles and Captain Johnson came into the Waverly PD when we were at a critical crossroad, and we really appreciate their great counsel and evaluation and feel like the town could not possibly be in safer hands right now. They exhibited great leadership, gave great advice, and we couldn’t be happier with the results. How fortunate that we have this option to have someone with the reputation Sheriff Giles has of being so well-respected not just locally but throughout the state.”