Chris Giles and T.C. Collins, who are running for sheriff in King George County, both have “remarkable experience in law enforcement,” according to the moderator of a recent event for candidates.

“What’s the difference?” Ed Jones, who led a Sept. 26 forum sponsored by the King George Chamber of Commerce and King George Chapter of the NAACP, asked each man. “Why are you the better candidate?”

Giles, who’s worked in the King George Sheriff’s Office for 27 years and is the chief deputy, cited his knowledge of day-to-day operations. His closing remarks about his work history brought the loudest applause during the two-hour event.

“I should be elected as your sheriff because I’ve been mentored by Sheriff Dobson and Sheriff Dempsey,” Giles said. “I know how to run a Sheriff’s Office.”

Giles was referring to former Sheriff Moose Dobson and current Sheriff Steve Dempsey, who’s retiring in December after almost 40 years in law enforcement.

Collins, a special agent with the Virginia State Police, said he stepped out on faith and left his state job in January after 27 years to run for sheriff in the Nov. 5 election..

“I’ve been in King George since the ’80s and things have changed and are changing more,” he said. “We need a sheriff adaptable to the ever-changing environment. We can’t put our heads in the sand anymore.”

Collins, 58, called the crime rate his No. 1 campaign issue and cited increases in the county’s drug incidents, aggravated assaults and traffic accidents. He said his three-part drug plan would let drug dealers know they’re not welcome, help those addicted and build relationships with young people so they stay away from drugs and gangs.

Giles, 56, said at the forum that mental health has become a top issue because deputies are spending major portions of their shifts dealing with those who have not committed crimes, but must be taken into protective custody because of mental health problems. After evaluation, if they need to be committed, deputies have to transport them, whether the facility is as close as Fredericksburg or as far away as Bristol, on the Tennessee border, Giles said.

Collins, who has served on the King George School Board for five years, also cited the growing number of traffic accidents. He said he would hold regular meetings with the Virginia Department of Transportation and “control traffic in real time.” He also said he would use a data-driven approach to crime and traffic safety and put resources where they’re needed most.

“I have managed many in-depth, high-profile, complicated cases and large-scale operations, managed the resources associated with those and coordinated with many different agencies,” said Collins, adding that the most extensive crime scene he ever worked was the Virginia Tech shooting.

Giles said he’d like to develop more communication between residents and the Sheriff’s Office. A weekly crime report could encourage residents to provide information.

“In a sense, I would like to bring King George County back to being a community where they can approach a deputy openly and free of concern,” Giles said.

The candidates for sheriff were asked their opinions of red flag laws, which permit police or family members to petition a state court to confiscate firearms from those who seemingly present a danger to others or themselves.

Collins said he would protect the Constitution and enforce any laws as written. Giles said the mental health side needs more checks and balances, and “we’re fortunate Virginia isn’t entertaining red flag laws.”

Both said they support an increase in the Animal Shelter budget to purchase vaccines. Collins also said he favors a no-kill shelter.

When asked about their support of the National Rifle Association, Collins said he’s an advocate of the Second Amendment, but the NRA is a private organization that doesn’t have anything to do with the Sheriff’s Office.

Giles said he supports the NRA because it has programs that teach gun safety and security. Likewise, he said, the Sheriff’s Office has two deputies trained to work with residents on the same types of programs.

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Cathy Dyson: 540/374-5425

cdyson@freelancestar.com

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