Stacey Kincaid | Fairfax County Sheriff

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Sheriff Stacey Kincaid was making waves even before she made history as the first woman to hold the office of Fairfax County Sheriff. She joined the force as a sheriff’s deputy straight out of college and worked her way up to the rank of captain, receiving the 2008 Distinguished Service Award for her career of sustained and exemplary performance and an Influential Women of Virginia award in 2014 from VA Lawyers Weekly. The 2013 special election saw the 28-year veteran elected as sheriff by a landslide. Two years later, the incumbent Kincaid won re-election for a full term. Throughout her career, Kincaid has devoted herself to her community and advocated for the well-being and safety of seniors, children, and those living with mental illness.

However, in 2015, her department came under fire when Natasha McKenna, an Alexandria native diagnosed with schizophrenia, died after being shocked with a stun gun four times while in police custody. This loss of life prompted the February 2016 implementation of Diversion First, a county-wide collaborative effort to reduce the number of mentally ill individuals in jail. Sheriff Kincaid is focused on education of law enforcement officials and transparency of practices and procedures.

WHAT MOTIVATED YOU TO PURSUE A CAREER IN LAW ENFORCEMENT AND THE SHERIFF’S OFFICE?
As a young child, I was bussed to school to promote racial equality. I was threatened every day. I saw other children beaten. I saw the effects of domestic violence. I wanted to make sure every person was treated with dignity and for those taking advantage of others to be made accountable.

“SOME PEOPLE WOULD
SAY MY GREATEST
ACCOMPLISHMENT IS
BREAKING THE GLASS
CEILING BY BEING THE
FIRST WOMAN TO LEAD
THE FAIRFAX COUNTY
SHERIFF’S OFFICE IN ITS
273-YEAR HISTORY.”

In college, I majored in political science with a concentration in criminal justice. In the spring of my junior year, I took a summer internship with the Fairfax County Sheriff’s Office. Working in the Inmate Programs and Recreation Office, I saw the benefits of educating our inmate population and how it directly contributed to their success. I knew that to make real changes, I had to have a seat at the table. Not just any seat, but a seat at the head of the table.

AS A WOMAN IN PUBLIC OFFICE AND THE FIRST FEMALE SHERIFF OF FAIRFAX COUNTY, WHAT OBSTACLES OR CHALLENGES DO YOU FACE?
I was not surprised to learn that there are a separate set of standards for women running for elected office. I experienced obstacles and challenges, but I look at these as opportunities to fix what’s broken. For example, I put into place a fair and equitable promotional process that’s focused on an employee’s knowledge, skills, abilities, and performance.

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WHAT HAS BEEN YOUR GREATEST ACCOMPLISHMENT WHILE IN PUBLIC OFFICE?

Most people would say that my greatest accomplishment is breaking the glass ceiling by being the first woman to lead the Fairfax County Sheriff’s Office in its 273-year history. I’m proud of this accomplishment, but being elected sheriff isn’t the end of the game. It’s the first step in trying to make a difference in the community I serve. I look at each day as an opportunity to make something better than it was when I found it.

ANY THOUGHTS ON THE USE OF BODY CAMERAS FOR LAW ENFORCEMENT OFFICIALS?
My staff and I are working with partners on adopting and implementing initiatives recommended by the Ad Hoc Police Practices Review Commission. One of the recommendations is to have patrol officers wear body cameras to record their interactions with the public. While most of our deputies work in the adult detention center and the courthouse, our civil enforcement deputies are on the road every day serving and executing civil documents on behalf of the courts. We are evaluating the possible use of body cameras for these road deputies.

WHAT’S CHANGED FOR YOUR OFFICE IN THE WAKE OF THE DEATH OF NATASHA MCKENNA LAST YEAR?
40 percent of our inmate population suffers from some form of mental illness. There’s a tremendous lack of awareness about mental illness and a shortage of resources to treat and manage it. Addressing this issue has been one of my top priorities. I moved the women’s mental health unit to a more therapeutic environment, adjacent to the Community Services Board mental health staff.
The cells are larger, have windows to let in natural light, and open to a large day room. I changed the inmate release time from 12:01 a.m. to 8 a.m., a time when housing, transportation, and healthcare are more readily available. I instituted telepsychiatry to ensure that emergency mental health services are available 24/7 for inmates in crisis. I helped spearhead Diversion First, the county’s collaborative initiative to reduce the number of people with a serious mental illness brought to jail by diverting low risk offenders into treatment. In addition, we’re providing the 40-hour state certified Crisis Intervention Team training to deputies. And through the Community Services Board, we’re providing a full day of Mental Health First Aid training to all of our employees. I continue to meet regularly with mental health advocates, consumers, and their families to learn more about their experiences and to discuss ways the Sheriff’s Office can better help the community. I’m also working with state and local officials to generate new policy and funding to expand access to mental health services in the community.

AT THE END OF THE DAY, WHAT DO YOU HOPE TO ACHIEVE PERSONALLY AND PROFESSIONALLY?
I hope that I was able to help people who were less fortunate. I hope that I was a positive role model for our youth. Above all, I hope that my legacy will reflect that I did, indeed, make a positive difference in the community in which I live and work.

PHOTOS BY ALEX MANGIONE