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Lawmaker cites refusal to enforce gun laws as reason for deputy pay raise controversy

'They came to our committees and said that they weren’t going to enforce our laws.'
Posted: 7:31 PM, Feb 21, 2020
Updated: 2020-02-24 00:00:26-05
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RICHMOND, Va. — A Virginia Republican state senator claimed he was told by the Democratic Senate Majority Leader that sheriff’s departments in the Commonwealth would not be getting a pay increase this coming year because many sheriffs have voiced opposition to gun control legislation.

Sen. William “Bill” M. Stanley, Jr. (R - 20th) made the claim in a Facebook post on Thursday night.

Stanley wrote that after an amendment of his to give sheriff’s departments a three-percent raise for the upcoming year was voted down, he was approached by Sen. Richard “Dick” L. Saslaw (D - 35th).

"Saslaw came up and said this to me, 'Hey Stanley, you want to know why your sheriffs didn’t get a raise? Because they came to our committees and said that they weren’t going to enforce our laws.' When I asked him which law was he talking about, he said, 'Gun control.'"

Speaking to CBS 6 on Friday, Stanley explained further the Senate version of the state budget had a one-time $200 bonus for sheriff’s departments in the first year and a three-percent pay increase in the second year. He was seeking to replace the bonus with another three-percent pay increase.

“Two-hundred dollars doesn’t go very far and a lot of our sheriff’s departments, you know, the pay is very low for the job they do. We have a high attrition rate. A lot of people leave that job to go get better paying jobs. Losing the best and the brightest and we want to make sure that we’re paying those people that are protecting us, that are keeping us safe, that are keeping us alive, and it was just appalling what went on last night,” said Stanley.

During the floor debate, several Democrats said there was no money in the budget for an additional three-percent increase.

“Maybe next year when we come back we can do a bit more, we probably can, but this where we are right now and we’re paying for it,” said Sen. J. Chapman “Chap” Petersen (D - 34th).

Stanley said he was “absolutely shocked” by what Saslaw said.

“Dick is a friend of mine. I love him dearly. He’s never lied to me, so I believe what he said was true that the reason why the sheriffs were not getting a raise is because some sheriffs dared to come up here to the people’s house and declare that they were going to support the Second Amendment of the Constitution and, I guess, that didn’t jive to well with him,” added Stanley.

This year, with full control of both chambers of the General Assembly and the Governor’s office, Democrats are poised to pass several pieces of gun control legislation.

In the lead up to this year’s session, many Virginia counties declared themselves as Second Amendment sanctuaries and voiced opposition to any gun control laws they saw as unconstitutional. In some cases, sheriffs in those counties said they would not enforce those laws.

When asked about Stanley’s account, Saslaw did not deny it.

“He didn’t lie...I said it,” Saslaw admitted. “All I said was a lot of people are upset that these people come in and say they’re not going to enforce our laws. That’s all.”

Stanley’s Facebook post has drawn tens of thousands of interactions, including over 16,000 shares as of Friday evening. One of those who shared the post is Lancaster County Sheriff Patrick McCranie. Lancaster County is among those that declared its support for the Second Amendment.

“I had a strong feeling this was going to happen. The men and women who work as deputies throughout Virginia deserved a raise. If the General Assembly wanted to leave sheriffs out, that would have been fine. I am sorry and feel very dejected, but I will never stop fighting for our men and women. Thank you Senator Bill Stanley for trying,” wrote McCranie.

Speaking to CBS 6 on Friday, McCranie said the post made him feel “surprise, anger, and frustration.”

McCranie said if opposition to gun control is the reason for no pay increase, they should punish the sheriffs who spoke out and not their entire staff.

“Take it out on the sheriff’s who spoke up about some of the laws that were being proposed,” said McCraine, adding he felt some of those laws were overreaching. “If you want to take it out on anybody take it out on the sheriff’s. Do not give them a pay raise, but the men and women who work for the sheriff’s office. The deputies, the staff, please give them a pay raise. They deserve it. They put their lives on the line each and every day to serve and protect our communities.”

In response to what is currently proposed by the Senate, McCranie said “really and truly they can keep it. If they want to keep my $200 bonus, they can keep it. That’s the way I feel about it.”