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CAMPAIGN 2013: Patrolman challenges sheriff in city

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A Fredericksburg patrolman involved in community policing is challenging the 14-year incumbent for the city Sheriff’s post next Tuesday.


Sheriff Paul W. Higgs, 59, said a critical issue for voters to consider is which candidate is best-equipped to oversee the $35.4 million courthouse scheduled to open in June.

In addition to experience running the current court facilities, Higgs said he’s been through security schools, received instruction from the U.S. Marshals Service—which oversees federal courthouses—and provided input to the design-and-build team on the security needs of the new courthouse.

“Do you want to put somebody in there that’s going to be learning on the job,” he asked. Higgs has been with the Sheriff’s Office for 27 years.

In Virginia localities with police departments, the primary responsibilities of the sheriff are courthouse security, serving civil documents and prisoner transport.


Swaney, 48, said his strength is his fresh ideas and his interest in being more in touch with the residents.

“The community is the eyes and ears of law enforcement. They have a huge impact on what is needed in the city,” said Swaney, who moved into the Mayfield neighborhood in December.

He also owns a home in southern Stafford County that he said he will sell after his younger daughter graduates from high school next year.

Swaney has 17 years of experience in law enforcement, all with the Fredericksburg Police Department where he holds the rank of master patrol officer.

Before that, he spent six years with the Virginia National Guard in Fredericksburg as a platoon sergeant. That followed 13 years on active duty with the U.S. Marine Corps.

Swaney, who was born in Uniontown, Pa., said his agenda as sheriff would be “community partnerships, crime prevention and safer schools.”

He would like to see the Sheriff’s Office provide city schools with another resource officer, saying it would save money since students are in school less than eight hours a day and out during the summer.

He said he hadn’t discussed the idea with the city police chief but believes he could find money in the Sheriff’s Office budget to provide additional manpower for schools—even if only part-time—because it’s needed.

“Some people would say that’s Chief [David] Nye’s job. I don’t think so,” Swaney said.

He suggested the Sheriff’s Office could get grants to cover those costs and others.

But Higgs said most grants are for the primary law enforcement agency in a jurisdiction, which in Fredericksburg is the police department.

“Every grant that is available, I have gotten,” Higgs said.

Higgs lives in Twin Lakes, grew up in Fredericksburg and has lived in the city all but a few months of his life.

“I don’t make promises I can’t keep,” he said.

Swaney said he would probably need to attend some schools to get instruction on court security, if elected, but said he brings vision and thinks it’s time to “think outside the box.”

“I think people get comfortable after a while,” Swaney said. “I don’t think I’d want to do it more than eight years.”

Pamela Gould: 540/735-1972