Staunton police officer wants to bring ethics back to Sheriff’s position
By Rebecca J. Barnabi
For Augusta Free Press
STAUNTON — The men and women in blue uniforms have gotten negative attention in the press in the last couple of years, and the city of Staunton’s police officers feel the sting just as do police officers across the United States.
“We’re not looked at in as high regard as we once were as a profession nationally,” said Chris Hartless, 47, who was raised in the Queen City.
Hartless, a member of the Staunton Police Department, is running for Sheriff of Staunton.
He said police departments should work to be more involved in their communities and repair reputations in the eyes of their residents.
“I just think that times are hard for everybody,” Hartless said, and police need to work to make sure their jobs are done in ethical ways.
Hartless and his wife, Renee, just celebrated 28 years of marriage at the end of August. They have two adult daughters and an adult son.
After graduating from Robert E. Lee High School, Hartless served in the U.S. Navy and returned to Staunton in late 1995. He joined the Staunton Police Department in 1998 and served for 19 years.
He joined the City of Staunton Sheriff’s Office in 2018 and served as chief deputy until resigning a year ago.
This is Hartless’s first run for political office.
If elected, his two main goals are training for office staff and more inter-agency cooperation, especially with the Augusta County Sheriff’s Office and Staunton Police Department.
“My intentions are to get the men and women in the office the absolute best training I can,” Hartless said, so that staff can make the right decisions for Staunton residents.
The Staunton Sheriff’s Office shares jurisdiction with the county in a combined courthouse.
“I’m going to refocus on what our responsibilities are,” Hartless said.
Staunton Police Department is in charge of criminal situations and traffic violations, while the Staunton Sheriff’s Office handles courthouse security, civil service and prisoner transports.
He said his decision to run for sheriff comes from having worked with the current Sheriff for more than two years.
“I saw some things and was witness to some things I didn’t agree with professionally or ethically,” Hartless said.
For example, Hartless said interagency cooperation has been lacking with the current Sheriff, who Hartless said attempted to get the Staunton City Police Chief removed from his position, and, when he was running for re-election, Augusta County Sheriff Donald Smith removed from his position.
In another example, Hartless said he was driving a vehicle with the current Sheriff in the passenger seat pursuing a suspect on a heavily traveled road in Augusta County when the Sheriff pulled his service weapon and was going to shoot the tires of the suspect’s vehicle to end the pursuit.
“Not only was it dangerous for everybody involved — in my opinion, it was unwarranted,” Hartless said.
Hartless said the support from the community about his running for sheriff in Staunton has been incredible “and I’m very humbled by it.”
He encouraged everyone to get out and vote in November.
“I think that change starts with the individual vote,” he said.
He said he assures residents who vote for him that he “will choose professionalism over politics any day of the week.”
“I believe I have the training, experience and know how to run the office more proficiently and more ethically,” Hartless said.