"I’m still riding around with Mr. King," Sergeant Jim Larkin tells a police dispatcher halfway through his hour-long road trip with the Scottsville candidate. "He’s throwing out some serious questions."
"Yeah, right," Denny King counters, guffawing, but the sergeant is right. The 63-year-old media executive has peppered the county policeman from the moment the two pull out of the County Office Building with query after query. Here is just a sample:
"How many officers does the county have on staff?
"How big a problem do you have with street racers on 29?
"Do the police get the necessary support from the judiciary system?
"How many miles do you cover on a normal shift?
"What are your greatest worries about young officers in the field?"
The sergeant patiently answers each question as he takes King on a driving tour of the county. Occasionally, King scribbles in his reporter’s notebook, and as the candidate explains at the onset, he is trying to learn "as much as I can about our county and how it is served by our critical professionals." Overall, the ride-along is part of a tireless campaign that began in January when King decided to run. Since then, he has regularly attended supervisor meetings, knocked on neighborhood doors and taken excursions like this one—he also recently rode around with an employee of the Virginia Department of Transportation. According to King, the work is all part of an effort to educate himself so that he can better serve the public when and if he is elected.
King says he is at least partly motivated by an earlier campaign in 2003, when he ran for a spot on the county School Board but narrowly fell short. "I only lost by 146 votes," he says. "That’s 146 doors I didn’t knock on." Even then, King took it upon himself to ride school buses, he reveals to the sergeant, just as they pull into the entrance of the Southwood trailer park.
"Do you believe the Board of Supervisors have done their job providing services to the department based on the current budget?" King asks next.
Before the sergeant can respond, the candidate speaks again. "I think we have to learn how to spend our money more wisely. Our county has over a $300 million budget," he says. "We have to put the resources where they are most needed and where you’re going to get the most results from."
The sky has darkened and as Larkin winds through the dimly lit trailer park, he initially acknowledges that the county has adequately provided minimal services. But when it comes to actual boots on the street, it’s another matter. "We keep crying for help," Larkin says. "They tell you, we’re going to give you 10 officers for the next five years, and that 10 gets chopped into four and then two. And then they tell you in the next few years, you may actually get nothing. When you think about it from that perspective, the answer is no."
By the time the police cruiser pulls in front of the County Office Building, King is armed with a wealth of knowledge. "Thanks a million. Thank you for your time, and the briefing," he tells the sergeant. "I’ll go home at 9:30, 10 or 11 and I’ll sit there until 2 or 3 just absorbing everything I’ve heard and learned." Larkin nods, his arm on the wheel. He still has a night patrol to do. "I’m so grateful you’ve given me this time," King says. "I can only vow that when I am elected, I will work hard for the police department to see they get the necessary resources."
"Sure," the officer responds, and with that drives off, leaving King standing on the sidewalk. It is 8:15pm, about time to go home and do more work.
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