The men who would be sheriff

jwise@newsobserver.comApril 21, 2014 

Three men are running in their first campaigns to be elected sheriff of Durham County:

•  Current Sheriff Mike Andrews, whom the county commissioners appointed to the job when former Sheriff Worth Hill retired with three years remaining on his term in 2011;

•  Clarence Birkhead, a former police chief in Hillsborough and Duke University;

•  Richard Buchanan, who retired as a Durham County sheriff’s major in 2012 after 30 years with the department.

All three are Democrats, with the winner in the May 6 primary (and a June 24 runoff if necessary) going onto the general election Nov. 4 as their party’s nominee. No other political party has a candidate for sheriff this year, so that the Democratic nominee is the de facto winner unless an independent candidate enters the race and successfully petitions for a place on the November ballot.

In North Carolina, the sheriff is the county’s chief law enforcement officer and the sheriff and his or her staff is also responsible for operating the jail, courtroom security and serving civil process. Under Durham County’s 2013-14 budget, the sheriff’s department has a staff of 453 and a $30 million budget.

The Durham News asked three questions of each candidate. Their replies, with biographical data, are below, in the order their names will appear on the May ballot:

Clarence Birkhead

Occupation: Consultant, self-employed

Born: Ashboro, Oct. 28, 1960

Family: Married, three children

Experience: Chief of Police, Hillsborough, 2005-10; Chief of Police, Duke University, 1999-2005; Duke campus police, 1988-2005; Deputy Sheriff, Randolph County, 1984-88

Website: birkheadfordurham.com

Q. Would you favor racial equity training, by an independent outside agency, for Sheriff’s Office personnel? Why, or why not?

A. I would favor racial equity training by an independent outside agency for the sheriff’s department. This type of training is necessary to offer personnel exposure to the values and beliefs of other cultures, to help the department to better understand and to serve the diverse community for which we live. Throughout my years as chief, I have worked with independent consultants before specializing in this type of training and value both the varying perspectives and expertise that employing an independent agency often awards. If elected sheriff, I will make equity training, crisis intervention training, and inclusive culture training one of my priorities.

Q. Would you favor or oppose a merger of Durham city and county governments, including the police and sheriff’s departments? Why, or why not?

A. A merger should be considered as a viable option under the right circumstances. It is important that, if elected sheriff, I focus on being a good steward of the county’s finite resources. As a result, I would, focus on streamlining operations where possible to avoid duplication and extend capacity where able to grow service availability. If over time, it were determined that a merger would be more efficient and effective at enhancing public safety services for all citizens, and improving the quality of life, then I would support a study and evaluation. However, in the short term, my attention would be focused on improving the operating efficiencies within the department.

Q. What specific ideas do you have for engaging the Sheriff’s Office with the Durham County community, in particular its Hispanic population?

A. I have several ideas for engaging the Sheriff’s Office with the community. One such initiative to better engage our under-served populations, including African Americans and Hispanics, is to target recruitment efforts in these communities where individuals interested in law enforcement are identified and preselect them to apply for available positions. This helps diversify the deputy force, establishing a department that is more reflective of the population of Durham County. I would also build partnerships with leaders of the minority communities to spark dialogue and communication about issues they face with the hopes of working to create actionable solutions together.

Finally, in an effort to establish a Sheriff’s Office that serves all people through my mission to create “One Community One Durham,” I plan to develop an Office of Public Advocacy. The office is meant to offer citizens a point of contact or liaison to the department whose purpose is to represent the community and their concerns. This office will also manage and follow up on complaints and will hold me and ALL members of the department accountable for our actions to the community, ensuring all people including those of underrepresented groups have a voice and an advocate within the sheriff’s department.

Richard Buchanan

Occupation: Retired Durham County Sheriff’s Major

Born: Durham, Dec. 4, 1947

Family: Married, one child

Experience: Durham County Sheriff’s Office, 1982-2012, 15 years as accreditation manager, lead investigator in murders of Russell Stager (1988) and Norma Russell (1986); past president, National Internal Affairs Investigators Association.

Website: buchananforsheriff.com

Q. Would you favor racial equity training, by an independent outside agency, for Sheriff’s Department personnel? Why, or why not?

A. Yes. It would help the agency understand and interact with a growing diverse community. In order to successfully engage our community with our agency diversity training will play a vital role. I believe that we should seek out the best training opportunities available to meet this end.

Q. Would you favor or oppose a merger of Durham city and county governments, including the police and sheriff’s departments? Why, or why not?

A. I am opposed to merging the two agencies. The sheriff is a constitutional office and although both agencies have similar roles the varying differences would not lend themselves to a smooth transition nor do I believe significant savings.

Q. What specific ideas do you have for engaging the Sheriff’s office with the Durham County community, in particular its Hispanic population?

A. I have already initiated meetings within the Hispanic community. I am learning the issues facing the Hispanic community in Durham, the biggest of which is communications. I plan to form a community outreach unit which will work with the Durham community at large, which will include members of the Hispanic community.

Mike Andrews

Occupation: Durham County Sheriff

Born: Durham, April 27, 1958

Family: Married, one child

Experience: Duham County Sheriff’s Office, 1979-present, chief deputy, 2008-2012, sheriff 2012-present; Advanced Law Enforcement Certification from N.C. Sheriffs’ Education and Training Standards Commission;

Website: andrewsforsheriff.com/

Endorsements: Friends of Durham. Durham People’s Alliance

Q. Would you favor racial equity training, by an independent outside agency, for Sheriff’s Department personnel? Why, or why not?

A. While our agency currently provides training aimed at maintaining an organization free of racial bias, I remain receptive to any methods that will continue our vigilance related to this vital endeavor. As sheriff, I have worked to continue a culture free of bias-based policing. Investigation and enforcement actions are conducted without regard to race or ethnicity. This is a broad effort as we strive to serve a diverse community. Specifically, it begins in the recruitment and training process and continues as we serve all citizens and visitors of Durham through accountability and supervision. As a component of this effort, our agency is in the process of implementing specialized software that tracks potential areas of concern, such as citizen complaints, and provides an early warning system that allows supervisors to track possible trouble.

Q. Would you favor or oppose a merger of Durham city and county governments, including the police and sheriff’s departments? Why, or why not?

A. Since 1999 when I assumed the post of major of the Operations Division, I have fostered a productive working relationship with local law enforcement. Many of the city’s police officers that I developed a rapport with early in my career are now leaders in that agency. As Sheriff, I have worked hard to maintain a strong connection with those leaders and other members of the Durham Police Department. Specifically, the Sheriff’s Office regularly shares criminal intelligence, which seeks to prevent crime and protect Durham’s citizens. Our agency also attends the City’s Crime Reduction Strategy meetings, which presents the ability to discuss crime and potential solutions with Mayor Bell, leaders of the Durham Police Department, and other stakeholders in the criminal justice community.

However, the Office of the Sheriff provides a specialized service, specifically authorized by state law, and led by an elected official directly accountable to the citizens. In particular, the sheriff is responsible for various legal process service and the operation of the Detention Facility. As it relates to law enforcement, detention, and civil process services provided to the citizens of Durham County, I would favor a merger if the Office of the Sheriff governed these critical functions.

With regard to merging city and county governments, I support efforts that increase efficiency and enhance public service. Merging these entities in their entirety would be complex and require significant evaluation to determine feasibility.

Q. What specific ideas do you have for engaging the Sheriff’s Office with the Durham County community, in particular its Hispanic population?

A. I am committed to community engagement as a critical component of effective public service. As the Sheriff’s Office strives to develop relationships with the public, we are mindful of Durham’s diversity and endeavor to maintain an agency that is responsive to the needs of all of our citizens. In particular, I recognize the need to expand contact with the Hispanic/Latino community and involve these citizens in the policing process.

Accordingly, I am seeking to bolster our bilingual ability within the agency and increase our participation in community events to facilitate greater rapport with the Hispanic/Latino community. Our agency engages in ongoing outreach through El Centro Hispano, which includes gang awareness presentations and efforts to combat impaired driving through the Impaired Driving Education and Awareness (IDEA) program. Additionally, our agency utilized a Spanish-speaking deputy to participate in a question and answer forum on a local Spanish language radio station. Our agency has also connected with citizens in innovative ways by developing a social media presence through Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube. A law enforcement agency that is responsive to the needs of all its citizens can build trust, promote a greater sense of community, and realize greater effectiveness in crime reduction efforts.

Wise: 919-641-5895

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