Republican incumbent Karl Leonard is facing a challenge from independent Rahn Kersey for Chesterfield County sheriff.

Leonard cites among his office’s accomplishments a jail-based program for substance abuse called Helping Addicts Recover Progressively, or HARP.

Kersey is taking aim at how Leonard’s office handles detainers from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement to hold undocumented immigrants, a controversial practice that civil liberty advocates say violates constitutional rights to due process.

Karl Leonard Republican

Chesterfield County sheriff

Question: What are the top issues facing the Sheriff’s Office? What should be done to address those issues?

Answer: The biggest challenges are within the jail addressing the opioid and heroin addiction crisis and managing the large population of inmates with mental health issues, all of whom have been entrusted to our care.

Over the last four years, we created a highly successful program, HARP, which has received nationwide attention and recently was proven to be highly effective and saving lives through an extensive independent study by VCU. In addition, we have implemented a mental health program that includes a psychiatrist and two full-time mental health clinicians who work in the jail to provide the necessary services there.

Rahn Kersey independent

Former police officer, U.S. Department of Defense

Question: What are the top issues facing the Sheriff’s Office? What should be done to address those issues?

Answer: There are many issues facing the Chesterfield County Sheriff’s Department. Increasing deputies’ wages and giving better training while maintaining effective service is always important.

Chesterfield’s illegal immigration and drug addiction problems have gotten so far out of control that immediate attention is required. Illegal immigrants are putting a burden on county services, and our drug problem is one of the worst in Virginia. ... I believe our county’s policy of not honoring ICE detainers is connected to many of these problems.

On day one, I will contact our lawmakers and push them to find a solution to the 48-hour ICE detainer as it pertains to civil rights. I will work on procedural changes within the jail to make sure no illegal immigrant criminals are released onto Chesterfield’s streets, making it clear that we do not welcome illegal immigrants. Federal funds are dependent on our cooperation, so I will work with the federal government as required to keep those funds intact.

I will honor ICE detainers because the removal of illegal immigrant criminals from Chesterfield will positively impact public safety, relieve stress on our public assistance programs and reduce our drug problem.

I will continue the HARP drug program but will stress accountability and make sure the jail is used primarily for what it was intended, a place of confinement. Chesterfield has several drug programs, and I will examine their effectiveness as well. These programs may be used to complement our HARP program.

I will attack the drug problem from all sides by stressing community involvement, a superior drug program in the jail and keeping drug dealers off the street. I will make sure that the participants in any drug program in the jail are chosen fairly without regard to economic status or political connections.

We will start a K-9 dog program for drug detection. The dogs will be used in the community and to help keep drugs out of the jail. I will have zero tolerance for illegal drugs within the jail and will push for strict punishment for those caught smuggling them in.

I will implement a policy that ensures our employees receive the best training and are promoted based on their qualifications. That will get the best people in the right places, boost morale and make our department better and Chesterfield safer.

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