By Randy Arrington
LURAY — The two new bullet-proof vests will read, “In Memory of Ray Leeth.”
“He always tried to make everyone else’s day better,” said Captain Tim Lansberry, head of the Page County Sheriff’s Office’s investigation division.
When Deputy Raymond “Ray” Leeth passed away in October, his family asked that memorial donations be made to the Page County Sheriff’s Office Foundation. About $3,500 was raised, and those funds are being used to purchase new cameras for deputies in Page County. It’s one of three projects being facilitated by the Foundation.
One of the other projects will bear Ray’s name — two new vests for deputies Art and Uri. The foundation worked with the Atlantic K-9 Vest Fund to cover costs of more than $3,000 to better protect the two canine deputies.
“They are one of us,” Lansberry said. “We felt it was important that if we are putting them in dangerous situations, then we need to protect them.”
Captain Lansberry noted that the two canine units are utilized more than the public might think; not only for getting drugs off the street, but for search and rescue calls as well. Art is in his fifth year, while Uri is completing his rookie year with the sheriff’s office.
The 10 new cameras being purchased through the Foundation will come with SD cards and a kit for a total of $399.99 each. They will be used to photograph crime scenes and evidence. Currently, the lack of cameras forces many deputies to use cell phones to take photos, which can open the door to other problems.
“This could cause problems in court,” Lansberry said. “That personal cell phone could be opened up for discovery [in court] … of everything on that phone. We need the proper equipment.”
The new cameras should be ordered soon, and the vendor will be dealing directly with the Foundation, which operates separate from the sheriff’s office.
The Page County Sheriff’s Office Foundation first formed in December 2018 and received its 501 3(c) non-profit status this past August. The idea sprouted from a training workshop held at the Central Shenandoah Valley Criminal Justice Training Academy in Weyers Cave. The event was attended by Lansberry and former PCSO Investigations Captain Aaron Cubbage, who now works with the Stanley Police Department.
“He and I attended leadership training, and one of the things they focused on was initiating a project that benefitted the department and the community,” Lansberry said. “We settled on a foundation to do some of the projects, such as equipment, education or training, that the department couldn’t afford.”
Captain Lansberry cited several situations in which unanticipated costs could drive up spending in the department and result in cuts elsewhere, or at the very least, the delay of purchasing equipment.
“We want to be able to get some of the things that they need that they can’t afford or had to cut,” Foundation president Dale Hamilton said. “We want to supplement and support what the sheriff’s office does.”
The Foundation has created an effort to raise funds called the Gold Blue Alliance. Supporters may sign up for an annual donation from $50 (Copper level) to $1,000 (Diamond level).
About 50 letters were sent out to local businesses in recent months in an effort to reach the Foundation’s $20,000 goal for 2020. The group plans to present its first $500 scholarship to a graduating senior in the county this May, and many other projects are being considered to support the Foundation’s mission of “building a stronger and safer community.”
Warren County has developed a foundation to support its sheriff’s office as well, with the same goals of raising additional funds, but also promoting more awareness of what the sheriff’s office does and the difficulties they face in doing that work.
“We want to change some of the perceptions about the sheriff’s office,” the Foundation’s treasurer Shirley Fleharty said. “People don’t really understand some of the processes and how their work is done.”
Lansberry and and fellow investigator, Lt. Kenneth “Kenny” Boyd, serve as liaison members on the Foundation’s board of directors. They both emphasize that their roles are to advise the six-member board, which includes former New England Patriot Darryl Hayley who resides in Luray and serves as vice president.
Both Lansberry and Boyd note that one big misconception about law enforcement is that every case is solved in 30 minutes, just like on the popular television show “CSI.” They note that gathering and processing evidence, as well as cases working their way through legal motions and the courts, can often take a year or more.
“We also want people to realize why we’re asking for these donations,” said Hamilton, noting that many feel their tax dollars should cover the department’s needs — but they don’t.
“If an inmate comes into our jail and gets sick, we have to cover those costs… from transporting the inmate, to medical costs, to assigning deputies [one and sometimes two on a 24-7 watch] to guard the inmate at the hospital,” Lansberry said. “Those costs sometimes take away from other things.”
Sometimes the transporting of an inmate to a medical facility could involve a costly helicopter ride to either Winchester or Charlottesville.
According to the letter sent to local businesses, the Foundation “acts as an advisory board to promote and enhance citizen knowledge and understanding of law enforcement activities, the challenges they face and the unfunded needs of the Sheriff’s Office.” Members of the Foundation plan to visit local civic clubs and other organizations to spread the word. The board of directors meets the first Wednesday of each month.
Each year, the volunteer-based group plans to establish a list of priorities and will set a fundraising goal based on that list.
“We want the Foundation to provide answers to some questions that people have,” Captain Lansberry said. “We want the Foundation to help be a voice for the sheriff’s office.”
To get involved or to donate, check out the Foundations’ Facebook page, or mail a check to: Page County Sheriff’s Office Foundation, P.O. Box 713, Luray, Va. 22835. Contributions are tax deductible. For further information, contact Shirley Fleharty at (540) 742-1205 or email@example.com