BERRYVILLE — Despite running unopposed in the Nov. 5 election, Clarke County Sheriff Tony Roper doesn’t assume his re-election is a given.
A write-in candidate could defeat him, he said, though he doesn’t know of anyone mounting a write-in campaign for sheriff.
Roper, who has been Clarke County’s sheriff since 2004, is seeking a fifth term. Sheriffs in Virginia serve four-year terms.
The 59-year-old said he appreciates the support that county residents have shown him over the past 15 years, and he pledged to always work hard to keep their trust.
“We listen to what people have to say,” Roper said about the Sheriff’s Office. “We don’t always agree (with them), but they always get a respectful ear and a respectful response.”
He tries to make himself visible in the community, even when he is not officially on duty, adding “I think I’m pretty approachable,” he said.
Roper has spent 41 years in law enforcement. He worked for the Loudoun County Sheriff’s Office for a couple of years in the mid-1980s, but the bulk of his career has been in Clarke County. He has held various jobs, including dispatcher, corrections officer and field deputy.
The Clarke County Sheriff’s Office currently has about 40 employees, including 18 field deputies. He estimated that the personnel roster has about doubled during his years as sheriff.
Roper considers getting the sheriff’s office accredited by the Virginia Law Enforcement Professional Standards Commission in November 2011 a major accomplishment. Accreditation by the commission, affiliated with the Virginia Department of Criminal Justice Services, requires meeting a lengthy list of standards for best practices.
He also has developed operating policies and procedures for the department to try and ensure that everyone — from crime victims to people charged with crimes — receives fair treatment.
But he doesn’t take the credit.
“Anything I’ve been able to accomplish is a direct result of the fine men and women of the Clarke County Sheriff’s Office,” Roper said.
He is continually striving to improve the department yet operate it as efficiently as possible.
“I’m a data collection hog,” Roper said, noting that he constantly analyzes statistics on matters such as where and when crimes happen, how long it takes deputies to respond to assistance calls, crime victims’ profiles (to determine who is more likely to be a victim), and how many security checks deputies perform to try and prevent residents and business from becoming victims.
He mentioned that county spending on law enforcement efforts has increased tremendously over the years at the Clarke County Board of Supervisors’ direction, and he is grateful for the board’s support. He tries to maximize every dollar received to its fullest extent and find supplemental funding from sources other than the county, he said.
“We leverage grant opportunities to the hilt,” he said. If someone has a pot of money available to help law enforcement agencies fulfill certain needs, “we apply for it,” he said.
His office is currently upgrading security at county buildings and installing new radio communications equipment to replace systems that are wearing out as they age. The new equipment will enable deputies to communicate among themselves and with other emergency services providers more effectively.
Roper said he plans to make sure that deputies continue to frequently undergo training to learn the latest and most effective law enforcement techniques.