Located on the Northern Neck of Virginia, Westmoreland County is comprised of an area of approximately 253 square miles and a population of approximately 18,500.  The Westmoreland County Sheriff's Office provides continuous Law Enforcement services throughout all unincorporated areas of Westmoreland County and the Town of Montross.  Additionally, the Sheriff's Office provides mutual aid assistance to the Colonial Beach Police Department and is responsible for the serving of all civil process documents in the Town of Colonial Beach.

History of Westmoreland County

As originally established by the Virginia House of Burgesses, this area was separated from Northumberland County in 1653 and named for the English County of Westmoreland; both counties are coastal. The territory of Westmoreland County encompassed much of what later became the various counties and cities of Northern Virginia, including the City of Alexandria, Arlington County, Fairfax County and Price William County. These areas comprised part of Westmoreland until the formation of Stafford County in 1664.

Westmoreland County was the birthplace of George Washington, who became the first President of the United States; of James Monroe, the fifth President; and of Robert E. Lee, general and commander of the Confederate Army during the Civil War.

Colonel Nicholas Spencer resided in Westmoreland County. He patented the land at Mount Vernon in 1674 along with his friend, Lt. Col. John Washington, ancestor of George Washington. Spencer, who served as President of the Governors Council and as acting Governor of the Colony of Virginia, was the cousin of, and agent for, the Barons Colepeper, proprietors of the Northern Neck. Spencer lived at his plantation, Nomini, which his descendants later sold to Robert Carter I.

Robert Carter's grandson, Robert Carter III, is known for voluntarily freeing almost 500 slaves from Nomini Hall, beginning in 1791. He also provided for their settlement on land that he bought for them in the Ohio Territory. This enfranchisement was the largest known release of slaves in North America prior to the American Civil War and involved the largest number ever freed by an individual in the United States.

Responsibilities of Sheriff's Offices in Virginia

The Sheriff is the only locally elected constitutional law enforcement officer of the Commonwealth of Virginia, as provided in the Constitution of Virginia, and is elected by the citizens of his or her locality every four years. Accordingly, the duties of the sheriff are not spelled out in any one document, law or regulation.

Service to the Courts – Court services are the responsibility of all Virginia’s sheriffs.  In each locality, the sheriff is responsible for the security of the courthouse, the courtrooms and the trials while they are underway.  Sheriffs are responsible for the security and sequestering of the jurors and notification of jurors for court service.  Additionally, sheriffs’ offices are responsible for the service of hundreds of thousands of court papers per year, ranging from divorce proceedings and child custody cases to simple civil suits among citizens.

Law Enforcement – All sheriffs are responsible for law enforcement in all counties and cities in which they serve. §15.2-1609 of the Code of Virginia mandates that all sheriffs are ultimately responsible for law enforcement in their respective localities.

Jail Administration – The Code of Virginia provides that sheriffs are responsible for all locally operated jails.  Sheriffs also sit on all regional jail boards, and in some cases operate regional jails in Virginia.  As such, sheriffs are responsible for transporting inmates to and from state institutions and maintaining security in local jails while transporting inmates to trials and other community services as required by local jail standards and court orders.  Today, local jails range in size in Virginia from a few dozen inmates to over a thousand inmates and the operation thereof can be, and is, a very complex system of services to the jail community. The Westmoreland County Sheriff's Office does not operate a local jail, but instead is a member agency of the Northern Neck Regional Jail in Warsaw, Virginia.

In addition to these services, sheriffs are called upon to promote DARE programs and services for victims and witnesses of crime as well as participate in civil commitments to the citizens of their locality to protect the basic health and welfare of those citizens.