On April 19th I mentioned a story about the confiscation of another set of Sheriff’s Department credentials that had been issued by Lee Stoffregen that had been told by Major John Collier during the campaign kickoff for Sheriff Glen Hill. As seems to happen with some regularity, a Mike Messier supporter complained that the story was a lie, which gave me the incentive to dig into this deeper and present the facts of this matter more thoroughly. Someday, perhaps Messier’s minions are going to learn to leave well enough alone.
A couple of weeks ago Detective Brian Wing of the Prince William County Police Department stopped a Mr. Stephen Turner on Prince William Parkway near Wellington Road for a traffic violation. Mr. Turner politely asked for some leniency since he had formerly been a Deputy Sheriff, and presented a badge along with his expired credentials. The detective, well aware of the problems with old credentials, contacted the Sheriff’s office and Major John Collier went to investigate at the scene. Major Collier confiscated the credentials, and asked how he came to obtain them, at which point Major Collier learned about the specifics of the means by which the former Sheriff, Stoffregen, had sold credentials to citizens without law enforcement backgrounds in return for campaign contributions of $500. As I reported then:
…the suspect told the deputy the story that he paid $500 for the badge back in 2003 during a “power dinner” at which there were about 150 to 200 people who also ponied up $500 for badges as well. A few days after this dinner these campaign contributors were individually brought to a back room where they were handed a badge without any background investigation, training, demonstration of proficiency with a firearm, or a demonstration of any law enforcement qualifications whatsoever. This suspect said that he thought it would “be neat” to have a badge, and thought $500 was a pretty good deal. This “power dinner” probably raised about $100,000 in campaign contributions for Lee Stoffregen, and contributed to the generally uncontrolled proliferation of suspect law enforcement credentials of which only 256 were documented in a 2002 listing, which wouldn’t account for the badges sold for campaign contributions that evening.
I had a chance to see these credentials, and they include a badge and an identification card contained in a wallet. The identification card was signed by Lee Stoffregen. The back side of the identification card contained height, weight, date of birth, an issue date and an expiration date. I saw another set of credentials as well, but since they involve an individual who is facing criminal charges I was asked to keep their identity confidential until such time as charges are filed. Mr. Turner is not facing criminal charges, since he did not represent himself as a law enforcement officer and surrendered the badge when asked to do so. There is a small stack of these expired badges, and between the ones held in evidence or in the custody of the department, there are about twenty five of these which have been confiscated. Others have voluntarily returned these badges after the coverage of former school board member John Harper was published.
Mr. Turner works for Atlas Plumbing in Manassas Park, and apparently has no law enforcement training. Another badge was seized from a Mr. Emmanuel Moore, who works as a Customer Service Representative at Costco, after he attempted to use a Sheriff’s badge to evade a parking ticket. He was later convicted of impersonating a police officer.
It’s not clear what many of the people who obtained these badges actually did with them. We do know that one of these deputies started patrolling the Occoquan and Potomac Rivers in his boat, which he outfitted with the trappings of law enforcement, but failed to secure liability coverage in case he ever actually did anything other than look impressive. There’s at least one case of a citizen actually purchasing their own patrol car, which was also uninsured by the department. These deputies recieved no training, were generally unsupervised, did not qualify with their personally-owned sidearms, and to the extent that they engaged in any law enforcement activities, they were at the discretion, or whim, of the individual and not the department. Why someone would want to buy their own patrol car and ride around like a real sheriff, but not actually obtain the training and the job of a law enforcement officer, is a mystery.
I had originially reported that the incident happened in Fairfax County, which was incorrect, so I’m glad that Messier supporters, who are trying as hard as possible to protect Mike Messier from the consequences of being Lee Stoffregen’s Chief Deputy, are pushing me as hard as possible to thoroughly investigate and report on the full details of the troubling legacy of Stoffregen and Messier. Voters need to be fully aware of what happened during the Stoffregen/Messier regime, as it will help put into perspective why they’re seeing so many Mike Messier campaign signs illegally placed in county right-of-ways at the same time he promotes himself as “an honest man” for Sheriff.
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