A Prince William County police lieutenant with little political experience is challenging Sheriff E. Lee Stoffregen III for the Democratic Party’s nomination for sheriff, in a primary run that is already pitting the former college classmates against each other in what is rapidly becoming a microcosm of the existing tensions between their respective agencies.
John Collier, 49, has been a Prince William police officer for 28 years. He attended National Louis University with Stoffregen and is currently serving as the watch commander for the county’s West end patrol.
He will formally announce his candidacy Tuesday at 10 a.m. at the Loy E. Harris Pavilion in Manassas. A primary will be held June 10.
Collier is not well known in Democratic circles, where Stoffregen is perceived as having a stronghold. The incumbent sheriff has over $275,000 in his campaign chest and plans on arriving at a $300,000 goal.
With the traditional odds tipped in Stoffregen’s favor from the get-go, Collier’s challenges seem significant.
“I don’t believe anything is insurmountable. I believe that common sense prevails,” Collier said.
Stoffregen says he will not underestimate his new opponent, despite his status as a newcomer to the political arena.
“The people of the community want leadership that is not so bold and single focused. But they want leadership that understands that all must work together,” Collier said.
If elected, the first thing Collier would do is analyze where law enforcement services are being duplicated. Then, he would work with other police agencies to formulate a plan to work in concert to protect county residents, he said.
“Let’s all work together to do that,” Collier said.
“Working [in] areas that have not been identified as problem areas seems to be a waste of manpower.”
Collier was referring to Stoffregen’s increased trafffic law enforcement efforts. He feels there is no rhyme nor reason to the way the rules are being enforced. Collier also said he believes that traffic enforcement should not be a duty with which the Sheriff’s Office is charged.
Police Chief Charlie T. Deane was neutral when Collier approached him about the job. He was not for it nor against it, Collier said.
Collier believes that Stoffregen has taken the Sheriff’s Office away from its intended mission; the incumbent’s increased law enforcement efforts duplicate services already offered by the county police, he said.
“Public safety is a combined effort, it is many parts,” Collier said. “And it’s greater than the sum of the parts — like the armed forces.”
Collier said the sheriff has focused too much on getting his way, as opposed to working alongside other agencies to address problems in the county and two cities.
“I just think that if you’re going to be a professional law enforcement leader, you need to focus on what your job is first,” Collier said. “That’s working together with other branches of public safety to ensure that the community is safe at all times.”
Stoffregen’s increased traffic enforcement efforts — a part of his record the sheriff touts — are not coordinated properly, Collier said. From his perspective as a police officer in the higher ranks of the department, there is no definitive utilization of traffic enforcement data and radar traps are often set up in random and not strategic places, Collier said.
Collier is married and has two adult sons and a daughter.
“This decision comes at a time in my life when its time for me to take a stand,” Collier said. “It’s just a good time for me to say ‘Okay, I can do this, and do it better.’ “
Staff writer Daniel Drew can be reached at (703) 878-8065.