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In Loudoun Country, Virginia, Sheriff Mike Chapman wants to spend $25,000 on a new website and $7,500 for “rebranding” the old sheriff’s computer surveillance program (which basically means a $7,500 photoshoot):

Money in the asset forfeiture funds is made up of money and property seized by a locality in criminal drug cases and a share of assets seized by state and federal law enforcement. Money that comes to Loudoun through the state is shared by the Loudoun County Sheriff’s Office and the Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office on a 75-25 percent split. Federal funds are available only to the sheriff’s office.

Chapman is seeking $50,000 to complete three tasks: develop a sheriff’s office website, to re-brand the Computer Cop software and to buy search and rescue equipment.

The new sheriff’s office website, with a price tag of $25,000, would be a “distinct, user-friendly law enforcement sub-site of the county website.” Chapman told the finance committee that the website would allow for more online initiatives, community updates, online reporting and better follow-up investigating that meet his goal of community-based policing.

“It will have ways to reach out and ways to communicate with the sheriff’s office, and updates on what we do out there in the community,” Chapman said. “But it is going to take some funding to get it the way we want it.”

Computer Cop is a program developed under former Sheriff Stephen O. Simpson that allows parents to view and permanently delete images, information and emails downloaded by their children to a personal computer, as well as block Internet sites. The software was purchased with asset forfeiture funds in November.

Chapman said he believes the program is a good one, but it includes images of Simpson and an introduction by him. Computer Cop has agreed to allow the sheriff’s office to re-brand the software with Chapman’s picture and message. It will cost an estimated $7,500 to make the changes.

“We’re going to have to take all the wrapping off and do some of the reprocessing ourselves. This is so we can actually not allow what is leftover to go to waste,” Chapman told supervisors. “I think it is a valuable tool. And I think it would be good to repackage and get it out there for the citizens.”

…and did I forget to mention?

Supervisor Shawn Williams (R-Broad Run) recused himself from the vote because he said he had a financial interest in one of the companies bidding on the website design. Williams was present for the explanations from Chapman.

 Two things. First, if you’re spending $25,000 on a website, you’re either paying for some really high-end functionality or the county is getting ripped off. Second, $7,500 to update the “Computer Cop” program with pictures of the new sheriff? Given that all you’re paying for is a photoshoot and some programmer time updating the code, $7,500 seems a little steep. But of course, this ostensibly “public” money doesn’t get allocated through the normal, competitive budgetary process; the sheriff’s office controls the fund, and only has to come up with allowable ways in which to spend it, regardless of how necessary or efficient those uses are.

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