EXCLUSIVE: Sheriff Chip Shuler of Virginia’s Smyth County has become the third elected law enforcement official to call it quits with the Democratic Party in just the last year due to a “relentless attack on law enforcement by Democrats in Richmond and Washington.”
“My deputies work hard to serve and protect the citizens of Smyth County. As sheriff, it has been difficult to watch my deputies try to move forward during this unprecedented assault on our profession,” Shuler said in a statement, according to WJHL. We (law enforcement) remain an honorable profession and should not be judged by the bad acts of a few. I have always been a conservative throughout my law enforcement career of 38 years.”
WJHL notes that Shuler, who was elected in 2015 and re-elected in 2019 as a Democrat, filed a Republican Party membership application last month, which was unanimously approved by the Smyth County Republican Committee.
“I congratulate Sheriff Shuler on taking this bold move to leave the Democratic Party and join the Republican Party,” Smyth County Republican Party chairman Adam Tolbert told WJHL. “We are thrilled to have him as a member of the Republican Party in Smyth County.”
The Democratic Party gained a slim majority in Virginia’s General Assembly in 2019. Since then, Virginia Democrats have passed a series of reforms including banning no-knock warrants, creating a statewide minimum training for law enforcement officers on racism, biased profiling and de-escalation techniques, and prohibiting law enforcement from obtaining or using specified equipment, including grenades, weaponized aircraft and high-caliber firearms.
Besides Schuler, Sheriffs John McClanahan of Buchanan County and Brian Hieatt of Tazewell County both decided to step away from the party in 2020.
Fox News recently spoke with Hieatt in an exclusive interview. Hieatt criticized the movement to defund the police, saying “you get what you pay for.”
“When we hear talks about defund the police, take away resources, the bottom line is, you get what you pay for and that’s with any profession,” Hieatt told Fox News. “So if you take away money and have to pay bottom dollar for certain for all the service and not have the resources to properly train, not have the money to properly test all the new applicants and new people coming in, then you’re not going to get the best. If you want better people in law enforcement, then there needs to be more funding to be able to do more testing, to be able to offer better pay as the people come in.”
“Here I’m supposed to be the Democratic sheriff, these people are citizens, these are people that I know that have asked me for help when they’ve needed it, but yet they’re holding up signs asking to defund my department,” Hieatt continued. “It’s hard for me as a sheriff to wear a badge as a sworn law enforcement officer and elected sheriff and say I’m with the Democratic party when I would see the things that’s going on that’s hurting law enforcement.”
Hieatt argues that the Democratic Party’s values have changed and that lawmakers are trying to implement policies that “make it easier for criminals.”
“When we arrest somebody, when we convict somebody, there’s been a victim of a crime,” Hieatt said. “When you’re changing laws to try to make things better for [criminals], what’s making things better for the victims who had to suffer?”
The latest party switch comes ahead of the state’s primary races on Tuesday, where Virginians will select the Democratic nominees for governor, lieutenant governor and attorney general, and multiple candidates running for seats in the House of Delegates. The state’s general elections will take place on Nov. 2.