From the Josh King for PW County Sheriff campaign:
Dear Blue Virginia Readers,
For those of you who don’t know me, my name is Josh King. I am an Iraq War veteran who served as a military policeman. Currently, I am a deputy sheriff, a union leader in my local SEIU Virginia 512, and a proud parent of a non-verbal teenage daughter with autism. I am running to be the first Democratic Sheriff in Prince William County in 16 years.
You may remember me from my bids for House of Delegates. In 2015, I was recruited by the Democratic Party, who noticed me in Richmond when I was advocating for better pay for teachers who serve children with special needs. I lost to the Delegate Mark Dudenhefer (R) by 125 votes. I ran for the same seat in 2017, losing in a primary to now-Delegate Jennifer Carroll Foy by 12 votes. Jennifer is a rising star in our party, and I was proud to knock on doors for her after she defeated me. She has done exceptional work in Richmond, especially in the area of criminal justice reform. I am proud to call her my delegate.
On Valentine’s Day in 2018, the local party called and asked me if I would consider challenging Republican Sheriff Glen Hill. I was excited for the opportunity to serve my community, and I knew from my past runs that a campaign was a big commitment. But I have spent the last decade as a deputy sheriff, and I am passionate about law enforcement reform, so I said yes — announcing my candidacy over Veterans Day weekend, which caught the attention of the Washington Post.
I want to take a moment to share with you my platform:
- Ending the discriminatory 287(g) program. Prince William County is one of only two counties in Virginia to have the 287(g) program. This is a partnership with ICE that deputizes local law enforcement officers to act as agents of ICE. 287(g) makes communities less safe, as it discourages people from reporting crime — including survivors of sexual assault or domestic violence. The county raised property taxes by five percent and cut other public safety services to pay for the program, which can be used to target the Latinx community and other marginalized groups. 287(g) was championed by Corey Stewart, but the sheriff is also a signatory to the agreement. I will end the program on my first day in office. Prince William is a welcoming, inclusive and majority-minority community. 287(g) is not who we are.
- Recruiting and training a new generation of diverse law enforcement officers. A whole generation of Baby Boomers is rapidly retiring from law enforcement, and the officers who replace them will serve for 20 or 30 years. We have a unique opportunity at this moment to recruit and train a whole new generation of law enforcement officers. I am committed to recruiting a diverse team — including women and people of color — who reflect the community we serve. I will also ensure constant, meaningful training for my officers in cultural competence from experts in the field. I recognize that people of color, immigrants, the LGBTQ+ community, the Jewish community, and the Muslim community are facing a surge of hate speech and even violence – driven in large part by the divisive rhetoric of people like our president and Prince William’s own Corey Stewart – and that many members of those communities feel increasingly unsafe. I will not simply throw together an annual PowerPoint with a quiz at the end and then declare that my officers are trained to engage with marginalized communities.
- Training officers to appropriately engage with people with disabilities and mental illness. My daughter is non-verbal. When we were alerted that she was groped by a volunteer at a nonprofit, my daughter could not communicate with the police to give a statement. What would a law enforcement officer do if they saw a child of color take something from a store, and the child — who did not know that what he did was wrong — didn’t speak when the officer confronted him? You would never know that my daughter couldn’t communicate simply by looking at her. I believe that a law enforcement incident should not be the first time a person with special needs interacts with a law enforcement officer. Furthermore, school resource officers must be trained to identify and appropriately engage with children and adults with special needs, as those kids will need additional assistance in the horrific event of a school shooting or other crisis.
- Ending the school-to-prison pipeline. In 2008, our sheriff oversaw a 200-bed expansion of the jail. Adding beds is not an accomplishment to be celebrated. While we must provide humane living conditions that are not overcrowded, we should also be investing money in diversion and after-school programs to ensure that we don’t need those beds in the first place. Furthermore, Virginia has been ranked the worst state in the country for the school-to-prison pipeline. A couple years ago, a Prince William teen was arrested after he was accused of stealing a carton of milk from the cafeteria. Are we just going to keep expanding the jail every five years? While I will ensure that our jail is not overcrowded, I will also fiercely advocate for investing in our youth so that one day we won’t need all those beds we added.
- Better serving our veterans. As an Iraq war veteran, I had some mental health challenges when I returned from the war. Fortunately, I had a family support system and veterans counseling to help me transition into civilian life. But many veterans lack the resources to get help, while others don’t want to be labeled with a mental illness. So many of these veterans then fall into homelessness or the criminal justice system. As Sheriff, I will build on the Veterans Treatment Docket, and I will ensure that the veterans on my team have the support they need to transition from their service. I also have an established record of helping veterans in my current job, where I volunteer for the Peer Support team. In that role, I’ve helped my co-workers and fellow veterans apply for disability, educational, and other benefits to which they are entitled as veterans. Many of them have received compensation and graduated.
These are my main platforms, but I am always open to new ideas and suggestions from the people I serve. Many of our retiring officers talk about the way things used to be, but I want to talk about the way things should be. Fifty years from now, my wife Candi and I don’t want our three children to be talking about the same issues Dr. King was talking about fifty years ago.
But it’s going to take all hands on deck to reform law enforcement, and I’m proud to have the support of VoteVets, SEIU Virginia 512, the immigrants rights’ group CASA in Action, and the Progressive Change Campaign Committee — but the most important backer is you, the voter. I hope to earn your support in the Democratic primary on June 11.