5.1 – VA Special Conservators of the Peace
Police Officers that serve cities, towns, and counties in the Commonwealth of Virginia are often referred to as «Conservators of the Peace». Massanutten Village Officers are not true Police Officers or «Conservators of the Peace» as they do not serve the citizens of a city, town, or county government in Virginia. They are actually part of a non-governmental VA corporation, specifically the Massanutten Property Owners Association (MPOA). Massanutten Village Officers are «Special Conservators of the Peace» created under VA Code 19.2-13. The VA Code states that upon the application of any corporation authorized to do business in the Commonwealth, and upon showing a necessity for the security of property or the necessity of maintaining the peace, a County Circuit Court Judge may appoint Special Conservators of the Peace.
Under VA Code 19.2-13, Special Conservators of the Peace serve for a specific length of time designated by the Court, but not to exceed four (4) years under any one appointment. Special Conservators of the Peace must possess a valid registration issued by the VA Department of Criminal Justice Services (DCJS). Once appointed by the Court, they have all the powers, functions, duties, responsibilities and authority of any other Conservator of the Peace within such geographical limitations as the Court may deem appropriate, but within the permitted confines of a specific county, city or town. The MPOA MPD Special Conservators of the Peace are limited to Massanutten Village only. The Court Order may also provide that:
- The Special Conservator of the Peace is a «Law Enforcement Officer».
- The Special Conservator of the Peace may use the title of «Police» on any badge or uniform worn in the performance of his duties.
- The Special Conservator of the Peace, who has completed the minimum training standards established by the DCJS, has the authority to affect arrests, using up to the same amount of force when making a lawful arrest as would be allowed to by any Law Enforcement Officer employed by the Commonwealth or any of its political subdivisions.
- The Special Conservator of the Peace may carry a weapon during the scope of his employment.
Additionally under VA Code 19.2-13, the employer of a Special Conservator of the Peace is civilly liable to any individual arising out of any wrongful action or conduct committed by a Special Conservator of the Peace while within the scope of his employment. As such and pursuant to the Code, each Special Conservator of the Peace must be covered either by a cash or surety bond, or evidence of a liability insurance policy to cover any legal judgment which is unsatisfied in whole or in part by his/her employer.
MPOA Special Conservators of the Peace are authorized by the Rockingham County Circuit Court to be «Law Enforcement Officers», use the title of «Police», affect arrests with appropriate use of force, and to carry a weapon while on duty. Thus, the MPOA security operations has been named the MPOA Massanutten Police Department (MPD) and its Special Conservators of the Peace are known as Police Officers enforcing county, state, and federal laws only within the confines of Massanutten Village. Since MPOA is civilly liable for the conduct of its MPD Police Officers, their scope of employment has been limited to a narrow range of law enforcement responsibilities to protect MPOA from the risk of a lawsuit. For example, it has been decided that MPOA MPD Police Officers will not enforce MPOA Rules and Regulations and concentrate on enforcing laws. In the past, a few actions have been brought against the MPOA Special Conservators of the Peace for wrongful action or conduct, while within the scope of their employment, making MPOA liable for legal judgments.