OP Live Candidate Forum: Orange County Sheriff

Candidates: Remember, you must respond using the reply button directly underneath the question or comment to which you are responding -- both to keep the conversation threaded and to avoid losing your words when the page refreshes.

A big welcome to everyone! And a big thank you to all of the candidates for Orange County Sheriff for participating this evening. I'm Chris Brook, the Legal Director of the ACLU. A big thanks to Orange Politics for having me moderate this evening. We have a lot of ground to cover so we will get right to it. 

Welcome to all of the candidates! A first question to get us started: what is your vision for how the sheriff's department will interact with the Orange County residents it protects and serves?

My vision is to build a 21st century law enforcement team that models accoutnability,diversity and fairness and to bring our officers and our community closer together to identify and prevent crime through better communication and better use of technology.

I want the Sheriff's Office to be responsive and accountable, I want to use best practices with respect to customer service. I feel we are an integral part of the community that requires and should solicit input from the citizens. The police are the people and the people are the police. We must be diverse and we must be fair. I don't like the term "transparent" because it suggests you can see through us, I want to be "open". 

I would make sure that enforcement of the law is administered equally and fairly, and most of all, that it is understood.  I would seek to have a community that is better educated in legal policy and procedures to help all citizens get help when needed.  I also favor a more aggressive recruitment of minorities to reflect and work with the diverse makeup of our county.

First, I want the department to mirro the diversity of the communities that exist within our county.Second, I want it to be engaged with local organizations and community leaders to build better relationships with all communities and to accurately discern the needs of the citizens of our county.Third, I want it to be an approachable institution of integrity that is focused on service and transparency, responding to the many needs of our county.

I will also support programs that affect positive behaviors in our youth and that will help promote good citizenship. I want to take steps to build a more diverse team of law enforcement professionals who reflect the communities we serve, and  support programs that foster positive, service oriented interaction between our professionals and our community.

Andy Cagle I plan to reduce response times and create better communication between residens and the Sheriff's Office. Currently, the county is sectioned into five major areas for patrol and this has served us well over the years, but with our population increasing on a daily basis we mmust prepare for the future. I have a new plan that will section our county into seven patrol areas, we can make this change using the same staff that we have per squad at the present time. This will make us more visible in all areas of the county, create better coverage for on-scene deputies and puts us in closer proximity of our schools in the event there is an emergency. This will also provide better proteciotn to all citizens and give our deputy's more time to develope relationships with the people they serve. Better communication between residents and the Orange County Sheriff's Office, is key to our success in this modern world. High Visibility will aid in detouring all aspests of crime. This plan will also reduce our response times by several minutes.

We need to be proactive with communication with our citizens. We need to communicate, cooperate and collaborate more closely with the other emergency responding agencies within the county. We need to begin a Facebook page and get into the social media age, it has worked with other agencies who have seen crimes solved through tips and also information reported of ongoing issues. We need to get back into our communities and reaffirm our commitment to enhance the quality of life for everyone. We need to proactively provide information instead of waiting for requests. We need to meet regularly, through Community Watch, Community Services programs and an open door policy. Most of all we need to be approachable. My policy has been and always will be to have an open door policy for everyone. I lead by example not behind a desk. I will be out in the field when administrative duties allow and I will not hesitate to answer calls and cover shifts if needed. The citizens in Orange County need to know that their Sheriff is not above working. I promise to be a working Sheriff so don't be surprised if I am the one knocking on your door.

And we are off! On to the second question: what role, if any, do you think the Orange County Sheriff should play in enforcing federal immigration policy?

     We need to concentrate on issues within Orange County that affect our quality of life and safety. We will not be asking to see people's papers.     We will check people for outstanding warrants and through NCIC when we have a lawful reason to do so. If we are informed the subject is wanted we will follow the law, we can not look the other way.     We will not be conducting raids and round-ups for the federal government with regards to Immigration.

287G was the program which created the issues that were raised and challenged in our Courts. The program failed and was replaced by Secure Communities. It is managed by Homeland Security. They are more than capable of managing the program as is. As Sheriff I will not utilize county resources to perform their duties. I will support their efforts by offering assistance if needed but don't think we should play lead in this program.

The only involvement that I think we should have is what we have in place now. Currently, we perform a records check on everyone arrested and taken to the Orange County jail. This records check notifies us if there is an immigration hold on the inmate. If there is not a hold, there are no further steps taken and no reports to ICE. I don't feel that there is any further role to play in this matter.

I believe we should focus our efforts on county and state issues.

In short, no.Federal immigration policy enforcement is a task to be left to federal agents.We want to maintain an environment where no-one's rights are violated and everyone feels safe contacting the Sherrif's Department for assistance.  No part of the population should fear reporting any crime due to their immigration status.Keith Webster, Candidate for Sheriff

We don't have the time or resources to enforce federal immigration policy.  That wouldn't mean that we shouldn't check if we run across someone during an investigation.  It's standard procedure to check on all suspicious persons or activities.  I would make sure the Sheriff's Department is not targeting any specific group or race solely for the purpose of assisting the government in locating illegal immigrant.

In 2010, Orange County recorded 163 total arrests for marijuana possession. 79 of those arrested were African American. 82 were white. This means African Americans were 6.14 times more likely to be arrested in Orange County for marijuana possession that whites. Why do you think this disparity exists? What, if anything, would you do to combat it? As Sheriff would you prioritize enforcement of marijuana laws?

Please confirm your numbers......If the numbers you post are correct, the percentage may not be

79 and 82 come to 16179 divided by 161 would be 49% African American82 divided by 161 would be 51% white 

Here is a report bearing out the statistics that form the basis of the third question: http://acluofnc.org/index.php/blog/new-aclu-report-shows-marijuana-arrests-in-n-c-are-costly-racially-biased.html

82 and 79 are near about 50-50 the way I see it. I don't think there is a disparity in those numbers.There are policies that can be implemented that require an annual review of of incidents within an agency. While I do not support becoming accreditated I do support policies that would help to mitigate the possibility of unfair practices and eliminate the issue. Training is a huge issue as well, we have to make sure our deputies are well trained and are acting in the best interest of the citizens of Orange County and the Sheriff's Office who is there to protect them from criminals as well as unconstitutional actions. As far as marijuana use goes, we need to remember that the marijuana today is not the marijuana of old, we are seeing it being upwards of 90% better and with new ways of smoking it. The Vap electronic device allows people to inhale the TCH without the odor and the chemical interactions within the brain causes mental health issues, depression and anxiety for example. I do support enforcement of marijuana laws.

African Americans are just over 10% of the Orange County population yet nearly half of the marijuana possession arrests. This is a very sizeable disparity. Why does it exist? And would you prioritize marijuana enforcement as Sheriff?

even as also have a fourth question out in the field.

This is a community wide issue, starts at home and ends in court. We have got to do a much better job of informing parents, community members and schools of the danger that marijuana presents. We have got to be proactive in reaching our youth and providing a positive alternative to that life style. Marijuana (THC) is not a harmless drug, it causes chemical reactions in the brain that lead to anxiety and depression to name a few. We need to proactively and agressively go after the dealers and suppliers and work with the DA's office to prosecute those who would push any drug onto our youth and others within the county.

I wish I had an answer for this question. We can and will conduct audits within the agency, open commnications with our communities and other agencies and come up with a plan of action to help combat that.

I would establish and enforce policies that would abolish profiling of any type from the operating procedures of the Sheriff's Department.I would analyze the data to determine crime trends and identify areas of higher enforcement actions. From there, the department can better understand and resolve the underlying issues affecting our communities. Any data that we gather would be open for public review and easily accessible.I would actually prioritize enforcement of more addictive and dangerous narcotics (heroin, meth, cocaine, etc...), which are on the rise. Keith Webster, Candidate for Sheriff

This has been a problem for years, I think in the near future we will be faced with new laws in relation to marijuana that will effect cost to enforce and fairness to all.

I understand that the percentages point toward a bias. I believe that socioeconomic factors and race plays a role not only in enforcement but in vulnerability to use. As Sheriff I must uphold the laws of the US and the state of NC. Howver, I feel that marijuana possession arrests have taken a huge human toll on the lives of many of our youth. One stupid mistake can follow them for the rest of their lives and I am concerned about that.

Proportionally, there are larger percentages of African Americans.  The low level dealers of color are less mobile and located in central locations -- leaving them more accessible to law enforcement.  We need to stop being satisfied with  incarcerating lower level individuals, get inside the groups and work our way up the chain to the more prominent suppliers.All actions performed by the department are prioritized depending on the seriousness of situation at that particular time.

I would agree there is a disparity and North Carolina may wish to revisit their laws with respect to marijuana possession. As Sheriff I am sworn to uphold and enforce the laws as written.

Orange County has plans to build a new jail. Do you have any concerns about inmate conditions at the current jail? When planning the new facility, what steps, if any, will you take to ensure inmates are held in humane conditions? 

The new jail plans that I reviewed along with the Sheriff and were submitted for consideration to the County Commissioners, is State of The Art and will more than accommodate our needs as well as provide humane conditions for our inmates.

The current jail is nearly 100 years old, my concerns would be with the infrastructure, plumbing, heating, and cooling. The new jail would be inspected annaully by an outside source to be sure that conditions were humane. I would like to set up a local inspection of the jail from within the county so the citizens can be sure conditions are humane.

Have you ever had concerns about overcrowding at the current jail? If so, will the new jail plans address them?

Yes, they are a daily concern and we do everything in our power to address them. The new jail plans will address them but you must take into account that we are growing at a rate which require us to think ahead and beyond our estimated growth rate.

The new proposed jail is a 200 bed facility with a chapel and exercise area for inmates. This should more than accommodate our future needs.

This is always a difficulty in planning a new structure.  It takes so long through the process that by the time it's approved, it's often too small.  We need to get accurate information to the commissioners getting it going,  cut paperwork and get the new jail built .  Better to plan ahead for larger populations at the start.

Yes, I have concerns about overcrowding at the current jail.  For this jail and for the new facility, I would keep a close watch on the quality of living.  If overcrowding becomes a problem, I would re-negotiate with federal authorities the number of federal inmates housed at the jail.  This adjustment would allow for a surplus of bedspace. Keith Webster, Candidate for Sheriff

As in my previous answer, I do have concerns about overcrowding. Discussions for the new facility have included recommendations that it would be approx. 125,000 sq. ft. which should address the overcorwding issue.

Yes, we can and will address those issues. As I said before we need to insure that bonds are set to guarantee court appearances and not for punishment (innocent until proven guilty) and we need to plan for future growth now, not when it gets here.

Inmates need better access to recreational facilities and cleaner facilities to live in.  We also need to ensure that they have better access to their attorneys and their families.A new facility would have to ensure that sufficient space was given to the inmate population and would have to be maintained at a decent standard of living.  For the safety of the inmates and jailers, it would need better lighting, reduction of blind spots, and more efficient camera systems.  We could also improve emergency evacuation plans for those incarcerated. Keith Webster, Candidate for Sheriff

My concerns are being able to keep up with the rise in number of inmates and keeping juveniles and adults separated.If the jail is built according to to the standard  set by state and federal regulations,  that should be enough to assure humane conditions and safety for all involved.

The OC Sheriff's Office and staff do a great job of maintaining a safe jail. We are always vigilant for problems that might occur. This has to be a number one priority for jail staff -- the safety and health of inmates. The current jail has a capacity of 129 beds and has not been upgraded or expanded since the mid-80s and is way overdue for a new modern facility as a result of overcrowding. Planning of this new facility that takes into account the latestmeasures for safety and thorough training of jail personnel will be key to ensuring the safety and well being for all involved.

There are times when the current jail reaches it's limit. The jailers at the Orange County Jail do a good job of insuring that everyone confined is treated well and are not in unsafe conditions. We house Federal prisoners as well, I am in favor of continuing to house federal prisoners and with the construction of a new jail we could increase the number of federal prisoners held temporarily. I would negotiate with the federal government in an attempt to get them to pay for the new jail and provide funds to pay new jail staff. We need to build for future growth, so that we are not having to build an addition every 10 years. We need to make sure we have more room than what is needed at this time, individual cells would be ideal but let's remember that most people held here are temporary in nature, those awaiting court, those awaiting transfer to NC Dept. of Corrections and Federal Penitentiaries. I would make sure to work with that Superior Court Judges, District Attornies Office and Magistrates to insure that we are not setting undo bonds as punishment and we are using bonds for what they are designed for: insuring court appearances.

North Carolina is one of only two states in the nation that prosecutes 16 and 17 year olds charged with a crime in the adult criminal justice system, regardless of the severity of their alleged crime. Would you support legislation to raise the age at which kids go into the adult system to 18 for all crimes except violent crimes? Why or why not?

as we reach the halfway point in our forum!

I served on The Youth Accountabilty Task Force where we created a comprehensive plan to bring us into the 21th Century with respect to this issue. The plan requires total input from our Legislators to become law. It is believed this could help decrease the recidivism rate by as much as 10% among 16 and 17 year olds, I hope it is revisited. Leaving it as is is costly.  Charles Blackwood

So, based on this experience, do you believe 16 and 17 year olds should only be tried in the adult criminal justice system when they have committed a violent crime?

Absolutely, when they have committed a violent crime.






The program provides the DA the ability to send cases to the most appropriate court, but generally yes.

for clarification!

I would support raising the juvenile age for crimes with the exception of violent crimes. I would proactively petition our legislature to increase the age. We as a society have failed our kids, but hope is not lost, we need to provide (as a society) positive opportunities for our youth in order to help steer them in the right direction. 

Here is another example of how one bad decision on the part of a 16 year old can ruin their chances for a successful future. It concerns me that we are only one of two states with this practice. I think we should look into this further because of its obvious affects on our youth.

 I certainly support legislation that would raise the age at which offenders are tried as an adult for non-violent crimes to 18.This would provide better opportunities for rehabilition and intervention. Keith Webster, Candidate for Sheriff

Yes, I would support legislation to raise the age to 18 for non violent crimes,  we should offer rehabilitation programs in the related area of the crime committed and give our youth a chance to succeed as they are our future.

I would support raising the age to 18 for all crimes except violent crimes.  Youth need more mentors and  leadership, and we need to look more carefully at each case -- one experience can alter a life.

Do you believe law enforcement should seek and obtain a warrant before tracking an individual's cell phone location or searching their cell phone data? Why or why not?

Yes, we must observe a person's right to privacy.  If probable cause exists, then a warrant should be obtained.

Yes, Unless there is a compelling governmental interest to proceed without one, such as a missing juvenile or endangered person Charles Blackwood 

No,  law enforcemnt should not seek and obtain a warrant before tracking an individual's cell phone location when a crime has been committed, in some instances time is of the essence in tracking the cell phone location or searching cell phone data. Example, Amber alerts, kidnappings, violent crime incidents.

In general, yes, to ensure an individual's 4th amendment rights are always protected.  However, some life-threatening situations may require that we act without delay. Keith Webster, Candidate for Sheriff

Absolutely, law enforcment must have a warrant for tracking or searching
the data on a cell phone. The process of seeking a warrent assures that
there is probably cause to believe that a crime has occurred and that
the individual's rights are protected - unless there are emergency circumstances.

There are exceptions to obtaining a warrant, however best practice would be to obtain a warrant. Personally, the only exception I see in this would be when the saftey of the person is in doubt. You can purchase a Faraday Bag to place the phone inside of. That bag prevents someone from remotely wiping the device so the exigency is eliminated.

A great deal of controversy surrounded the Chapel Hill Police Department's use of a SWAT team to remove protestors from the Yates building on Franklin Street in 2011. Based on your knowledge of those events, do you believe deploying a SWAT team was appropriate in those circumstances? More broadly, when do you think it is appropriate to use a SWAT team?

No, I would have handled it differently and have done so in similar circumstances with a more positive outcome.

this is a question both about Yates and your general philosophy on SWAT deployment. We'd love to hear from all of the candidates on both points.

SWAT deployment is intended for dynamic entry where conventional entry will not provide a safe result.

There was nothing to indicate at that incident there was any reason to call out a special team as there was mostly  property damage, with no one's life in danger.  A SWAT team should only be called out during life threatening incidents or the potential for a life-threatening incident (for example a drug bust) that definitely requires that amount of expertise and force.

I do believe that the agencies acted appropriately. The protestors had no business being in a private building without permission from the owner. The risk was unknown due to not knowing each and every persons background that was there. My understanding (as I was not there) was that negotiations did not result in the desired outcome.The mission of a Special Weapons And Tactics (S.W.A.T.) Team is to provide an agency with the capability to safely resolve high-risk situations such as barricaded suspects, hostage situations, suicidal subjects, high risk warrants and searches, high risk arrests and other situations where the liklihood of armed resistance appears great.

Thanks for handling both aspects, candidate Parker. As you note, the primary concern at Yates was trespassing. Why then was a SWAT deployment appropriate if your standard is only deploy SWAT when there is a likelihood of armed resistance? 

The possibility exists for armed resistance in everything we do as law enforcement officers, from stopping in a store to get a drink, someone approaching us while we are in our patrol car, domestics, vehicle stops and other duties we perform. Our goal is to go home safe to our families after each shift and make sure each person we deal with goes home safe too. The group was advised to vacant and they failed to do so, sending a couple of officers into a situation would not be safe should things turn sour. The protestors needed to understand that they could not stay there and would have to leave, no one was injured or killed during the incident, due to a well trained team doing their job.

No, I would have assessed and responded to the situation differently.  Better communication with the people inside the building could have resolved the situation in a more peaceful manner.I understand that SWAT team deployment is a very serious decision to make and shouldn't be taken lightly.  It requires a great deal of education and preparation. When deploying a SWAT team, our greatest priorities have to be the safety of the general public, the safety of the officers involved, and the safety of those on the other side of the door.In keeping with my committment to transparency, after such actions have taken place, a public report of actions taken and reasons why will be made available and easily accessible.It is appropriate to use a SWAT team for many reasons.  SWAT teams are not only used in high-pressure tactical scenarios, but also used in a variety of situations, including finding missing or wanted persons, high-risk warrant service, and directing traffic at public events.  Not all situations involve having a para-military presence. Keith Webster, Candidate for Sheriff

No I do not, these protestors were looking for media coverage. The SWAT team should have been placed on alert but not deployed. Under the circumstances we should have kept our distance, removed the attention they were seeking without the attention their protest would have been null and we could have witnessed the peaceful dispersal of these individuals.SWAT should only be deployed when imminent danger is evident.

I do not know all of the details of this event except what was reported by local media at the time. I have no knowledge of what the circumstances were from the perspective of the Chapel Hill Police or what information they had been given ahead of time. Therefore I do not want to second guess the CHPD's response - they must act on whatever information they have for any given situation. SWAT deployment must be determined according to the intelligence that has been gathered regarding a situation's risks,severity, etc.

Many North Carolina counties and municipalities have discussed purchasing drones for law enforcement purposes. Would you pursue exploring their use as Orange County Sheriff? If so, what kind of safeguards should exist before they are used? For example, should law enforcement have to obtain a search warrant before utilizing a drone to target individual's property for closer inspection?

No, I don't think the use of drones for law enforcement purposes on the general public is appropriate. Keith Webster, Candidate for Sheriff

We have always respected the plain view doctrine, that which an officer can see without the aid of device. Drones might be effective if guidelines and safeguards are in place and observed. Under no circumstances should they be equipped with lethal or non-lethal weapons. I would look to how the court interpret their use in the future.

No.  The overall cost for drones and their maintenance and operation costs would in no way be justifiable expense for use in Orange County.  There are many better ways to spend the taxpayer's money.

While I am a proponent of technology to make our duties and lives easier I think we can spend that money more effieciently and effectively in other areas of the agency and county. Nothing will ever replace good old fashioned surveillance by our eyes. I do not and will not support purchasing or utilizing drones in Orange County. 

No, I think we should focus more on equipment upgrades, and technology outside of drones.

I would consider gathering more information about their use but I
question whether they would be as cost effective as other methods of
surveillance. However, the question of search warrants and individual
rights will be an issue for our courts to decide.

As we come towards the end of our forum, here is our ninth question: do you support the death penalty? Why or why not?

This is a personal issue that people have very strong feeling about for and against. I do not feel the taking of a life in any way makes a wrong, right. That being said the costs are always argued. I am not convinced that keeping a person on death row and constantly arguing appeals cost less than housing them for life without parole. 

This question is best asked to the District Attorney and Supreme Court Judges, the Sheriff does not have a say in whether or not the death penalty is sought and I will never advocate for or against the death penalty in any case. It is not my place to judge anyone, only to enforce the laws of NC and insure everyone is treated fairly and their constitutional rights are not violated. I do not support the Death Penalty.

No, I do not support the death penalty, a good example would be Jonathon Hoffman who spent 12 years on death row and was released in 2008 when charges were dropped against him.

I do not believe in the death penalty.  History has shown that through poor investigative procedures and poor representation, many innocent men and women have been put to death.  One innocent person is too many.  Unless everyone is provided the best in investigation and representation and all are all treated fairly in the eyes of the law, I would not consider supporting it.

No, I do not support the death penalty.  The death penalty is an extreme sentence that, once carried out, does not have the capacity to be undone or appealed.  It renders useless any future evidence that may prove a person's innocence that may be discovered as technology constantly advances. Keith Webster, Candidate for Sheriff

I do not support the death penalty because mistakes can be made and an innocent life can be taken in error.However, I do support life in prison without parole in for certain violent crimes.

When you retire from the post of Sheriff, what would you hope people would say about you?

That they made the right choice in selecting me to serve in the office and that I made a positive impact on their lives and the county; that the leadership I provided made the difference the citizens wanted to see.

Job well done, he was a kind fair person dedicated to the citizens of Orange County!

While I am not seeking the job for recognition or accolades I hope they remember that I was not a politician and I did the job they hired (elected) me to do.

I hope people would say that I was true to my word, fair, and open.  I want them to say that I was a working sheriff who revitalized an important institution, making it a dynamic and innovative resource for our county.  Keith Webster, Candidate for Sheriff

I would like them to say, "Job well done!" and "What a roller coaster ride full of ups and downs!" and when its over, "Can we do it again?"  Thank you, David Caldwell

I hope that they would say that I was a Sheriff for all the people and
that I served my staff and my community well. In addition, I hope that
they would say that I made a difference in bringing accountability,
diversity and fairness to the department and built trusting relationships with our communities.

Candidates, we will leave this thread open until 920PM for you to finish responding to the last question and polishing up any of your other answers. Thank you so much for your time this evening! It was great to get your perspective. Good luck out there on the campaign trail! And a big thank you from the ACLU of North Carolina to Orange Politics for the opportunity to moderate this evening. Such a great opportunity to ask about important questions facing law enforcement in Orange County as voters get ready to head to the polls. Thanks, y'all!

Just wanted to say thanks to Orange Politics for hosting this forum and Chris Brook for agreeing to moderate it. Thanks to all in the audience for reading what we had to say and early voting starts tomorrow! Have a great night!

Really appreciate you taking the time this evening. Good luck on the campaign trail!

Thank you Chris for moderating and thank you OrangePolitics.org for providing this forum.  A special thank you to all of the citizens who have joined this forum. Charles Blackwood 

Thanks so much for participating and your perspective. Good luck on the campaign trail!

Thanks to everyone who participated in this event and made it possible. I'm glad to see so many people concerned with the future of our county. Keith Webster, Candidate for Sheriff

Thanks so much for participating and your take on the issues. Good luck on the campaign trail!

Thank you Chris for moderating and Orange Politics for hosting this forum tonight.

Thanks so much for your time and perspective. Good luck on the campaign trail!

Thank you to Orange Politics for hosting the forum and thank you Chris for taking time to moderate this evening. Have a good night everyone!

Thanks a bunch for taking the time and offering your take. Good luck on the campaign trail!


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