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Acting Sheriff Jose Quiroz wins Democratic primary on commitment to improve inmate well-being

Arlington Sheriff candidate Jose Quiroz, Jr. greets Arlington County Board member Takis Karantonis at the Walter Reed Community Center on Tuesday (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

After taking the helm for longtime Arlington County Sheriff Beth Arthur, who retired at the end of 2022, Acting Sheriff Jose Quiroz is one step closer to taking charge permanently.

Quiroz — backed by four of five County Board members and several elected officials — won the Democratic primary Tuesday night. Following his victory, over former sheriff deputy Wanda Younger and Arlington County police corporal James Herring, Quiroz advances to the November general election.

No one has emerged as an outside challenger, according to the Arlington Dept. of Elections website. If elected as expected, Quiroz will be the county’s first Latino sheriff.

As of last night, the acting sheriff had nearly 40% of the vote, or 10,733 ballots. Younger was close behind him, with 1,600 fewer votes (~34%). Herring came in third, picking up nearly 7,200 votes.

Arlington County Sheriff results (via Virginia Dept. of Elections)

Looking forward, the acting sheriff says he will focus on mental health, substance use and programming for jail inmates. Running the local jail is the primary responsibility of the Arlington County Sheriff’s Office, along with providing court security and some law enforcement and civil process duties beyond the justice complex in Courthouse.

“I think the biggest thing is mental health. We all have that and all go through it, but some people need a little more care, attention, resources and services,” Quiroz told ARLnow. “I think the county has some work to do in that area.”

He stressed that he can only control treatment of inmates, not change the waves of people with mental illnesses and addictions coming to the jail. To that end, he says new biometric sensors — which inmates will wear so issues like withdrawal symptoms can be spotted before more inmates die — are close to go-time.

Meanwhile, he intends to maintain existing programs, including a series that teaches men how to connect with and be fathers to their kids.

“That’s how you break the cycle of the next generation,” he said. “It’s important to me as a father.”

He says he is thinking “outside the box” about support, stepping up pet therapy and possibly adding a pickleball court for staff and inmates.

In their concessions, Herring and Younger both said they campaigned on bringing to light problems in the jail.

“My campaign was about highlighting the issues and showing people the number of solutions we have available to us if we stop relying on the trope of ‘that’s the way it has always been done,’ or ‘it costs too much,'” Herring said. “Other Sheriff’s Offices in Virginia have implemented much of what I was talking about, often with smaller budgets. The problems facing our Sheriff’s Office are not financially driven, but an issue of priority.”

Next week, Herring will once more be patrolling the streets. He said he would run again if the problems he stressed in his campaign remain four years from now.

On social media, Younger said she is “proud to have raised the bar of the Sheriff’s Office with our ideas & solution-sets and to have brought light to the prevalent issues of the Arlington Sheriff’s Office which inhibit [its] growth and greatness.”

She also thanked voters for their confidence in her ability to carry out her platform.

“The Wanda for Sheriff team will continue to advance the rights and voice of the detainees, Sheriff’s Office staff and our Arlington community in the future as community advocates and caretakers, and we are honored to have earned your trust,” she said.

Younger made trust central to her campaign, bringing up an allegation that Quiroz had allowed bullying of one deputy and saying he promoted a deputy who was mentioned in a lawsuit filed against former Sheriff Arthur and Arlington County. Court documents viewed by ARLnow showed this deputy was not a party to the suit but conducted an internal investigation referenced in the documents.

A moderator in a candidate forum last month questioned these tactics, but Younger was steadfast in her claims that voters need to know this before deciding whether Quiroz is trustworthy.

If there was one unifying campaign objective, according to candidates, it was informing people Arlington has a Sheriff’s Office and describing its role.

Herring says this lack of awareness “allowed the issues like the poor medical care for those in custody, poor mental health care, short-staffing, and forced overtime, to go unnoticed.”

“Every deputy answers to the Sheriff who in turn answers to us, the voters. ‘Arlington’ is printed on their patches, badges and cars — we must never forget that ACSO represents us in everything they do, and fail to do,” he said.

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