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Sheriff Dana Lawhorne:Making it Safer to Pursue Justice

Posted on Mar 03,2009
Filed Under Local Politics , Politics, Local Leaders , Community,

photo by John Arundel/Local Kicks 
"I am proud to be your Sheriff….I am proud to be a Democrat…and I am
proud to be an Alexandrian," said Dana Lawhorne Saturday at his campaign
kickoff at Atlantis Pizza.

For 27 years he was a police detective who plied the streets of the city locking up miscreants for the city's sheriff to look after in Alexandria's now-famous jail. In 2005, he traded in one job for another, becoming the city's first new sheriff in 20 years.
And on Saturday, before a packed pizzeria on the city's West End, Sheriff Dana Lawhorne humbly listed his accomplishments and asked voters to return him to the job that he loves, seeking the Democratic Party's nomination as Sheriff of Alexandria for the Nov. 2009 election.  
"I am proud to be your Sheriff….I am proud to be a Democrat…and I am proud to be an Alexandrian," said Lawhorne. "It seems like yesterday when I began the journey to victory five years ago that resulted in my earning your trust as a public official. I worked hard to prepare for what has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my life. So, here we are again..."
Lawhorne said that as Sheriff he has made a real difference in the city during his first four-year term. "Much progress has been made," he said.  

photo by John Arundel
Mallory Lawhorne, Linda Lawhorne, Lindsey Swanson
and Terry Burcham, Left to Right.

In his 2005 campaign, Lawhorne promised that he would accomplish five major goals, including managing the Sheriff’s Office in an "efficient and effective manner;" increase its visibility in the community;  improve rehabilitation programs for the incarcerated; implement professional training and upgrades, and protect the public.
Mission accomplished, said Commonwealth Attorney S. Randolph Sengel,
"In his first term as sheriff, Dana has done more than any previous sheriff in my 30 years in the Commonwealth's Attorney's office," said Sengel, who introduced him to the crowd of about 300 supporters. 
Lawhorne said he was kept busy developing new and more effective ways to serve the Alexandria community. One of his top goals was in maintaining "the absolute highest" professional standards in managing the city jail, which over the past few years has had some celebrity guests, including New York Times reporter Judith Miller, the so-called Shoe Bomber Richard Reid, the "American Taliban," and 9/11 terrorist Zacarias Moussaoui.  He said the successful reaccreditation by the American Correctional Association is "proof that the Detention Center continues to be an effectively run facility that meets the standards for best practices in corrections."

At the courthouse, Lawhorne said he improved the security of the building, making it "a safer place for citizens to pursue justice."  Additionally, the warrant service continues to take dangerous criminals off the city's streets.  "He's honest, trustworthy and will keep his word," said Del Ray community activist Pat Miller. "The Sheriff's Department has really been cleaned up under Dana Lawhorne."
One successful initiative has been the expanded use of the inmate work details.
The units have been active throughout the city performing the clean-up of city streets, snow removal at schools, and beautifying sidewalks, street corners and neighborhood spaces to make a cleaner city.  

photo by John Arundel
Lauren Smith, Carol Bailey, Gayle Reuter and Ann Dorman.

"If it wasn't for work release bringing out four [non-violent offenders] on New Year's Eve to help set up, I don't know how we'd do it," said Ann Dorman, chair of First Night Alexandria. "He's been a great sheriff so far. He's had a record of community involvement since he was a detective, and as sheriff he's only done more."
Lawhorne said his pursuit of excellence resulted in capturing the Triple Crown Award, representing the  accreditation by the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies, the Commission on Accreditation for Corrections and the National Commission on Correctional Health Care.   "We are proud of this honor, which could have been attained only through the leadership and professionalism of our staff," he said.
The grinding day-to-day work Sheriff's deputies perform are vital to greasing the wheels of justice. They run operations at the Detention Center, at the Courthouse, and while in the community serve civil process and criminal warrants, conduct safe evictions, transport prisoners and perform other secondary law enforcement roles.
Lawhorne said that some of his achievements over the last four years include the successful renegotiation of the Federal contract for housing federal prisoners, increasing the per diem rate and guaranteeing an annual payment of $6 million to the city from the Federal Government. He was also instrumental in recouping $2.5 million  from the U. S. Marshals Service as repayment for security enhancements made for the Zacarias Moussaoui trial.

Lawhornealso initiated a civic association liaison program whereupon Sheriff’s Deputies were assigned to each of the city’s major civic associations and community groups.
"The liaison program has provided better communication and understanding between the Sheriff’s Office and community, and a means to allow our office to be of better assistance to our neighbors," he said.

photo by John Arundel
Commonwealth Attorney Randolph Sengel and
Sheriff Lawhorne.

The campaign kickoff event was sponsored by Ann and Rick Dorman, Bob and Monica Bell, Charlie and Sandi Collum, Sean McEnearney, and Barb and Mike Geissinger.
Contact the reporter at
See more photos of the kickoff event on DIGITAL KICKS
Some Milestone of the Lawhorne Era:

  • Conducting security audits and improvements at the Alexandria Courthouse, providing greater surveillance while enhancing protection of Courthouse users and visitors.
  • The successful implementation of 97 percent of recommended security improvements at the jail by a professional security consulting firm. He also was credited with creating a Pre Treatment Unit for those waiting to enter the Sober Living Unit program, and created a Re-Entry Unit for inmates transitioning back to the community.
  • Initiating efforts resulting in a partnership with the Virginia State Police to monitor registered sex offenders residing in the City.
  • Participating with the Police Department in a coordinated task force named “Operation Clean Sweep,” resulting in the arrest of 61 felons and serving a total of 88 outstanding criminal warrants.
  • Entering into an agreement with Virginia’s Attorney General TRIAD program to aid the city’s senior citizens.  This pact between Alexandria’s S.A.L.T. Council (Seniors and Law Enforcement Together), Sheriff’s Office and city police works to reduce victimization of the elderly.
  • Acquired a K-9 Bomb Dog from the ATF at no cost to the city.
  • Establishing a 40-hour refresher Patrol Training for all sworn staff below rank of captain.
  • Appointing a retired Alexandria Police Sergeant (George Burnham) as Special Investigator of Internal Affairs and Administrative Reviews "to make sure we police our own."
  • Improving and setting high goals for inmate educational programs to increase completion of GED programs by inmates and creating an educational unit. "We had a 20% increase in GED’s in 2008. I also hired a part time ESL instructor."

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