September 1, 2022
Back in 2020 I wrote about the reasons why Rutherford County should start their own police force.
- It would take the responsibility off of the Sheriff and let him concentrate on the jail and courthouse. (The 911 Communications Center has already been moved from his office.)
- It would take political affiliations out of the equation so that officers would not be afraid for their jobs every four years.
- The officers and administrators would be accountable to the county but also would have the job protection of the county policies and procedures standing behind them.
- It would place officer/administrative accountability in the County’s hands.
- It would help to restore the public’s faith in our officers and their behavior.
Accountability has long been an issue with the Sheriff’s Office. There seem to have been way too many people acting on their own without adequate supervision and oversight.
District Attorney Ted Bell has seemingly turned a blind eye to officer incidents and never has an SBI report been revealed to the public concerning these incidents. Even if charges were warranted, D.A. Bell is the person who decides to charge the officer involved or not. During Bell’s tenure a charge was only made once when the assault of a deputy on a handcuffed inmate was captured on video. That conviction is being appealed this month.
In those law enforcement cases there has been no one that the public could turn to for answers. Cloak and dagger seem to be the operating procedure as far as the general public was concerned.
Recently we have seen more information coming out of the Sheriff’s Office and they have installed a body scanner at the jail, but really, is this too little, too late?
Sheriff Francis is leaving office this year. He is not running for sheriff again. We will have a new sheriff after the November election. There are three good men running for this office but as I have said before, are we not asking too much of one man?
The jail is absolutely out of control. It is going to take a full time commitment to try to fix it. That is hard to do if you are also trying to supervise and coordinate the officers of the Sheriff’s Department whose responsibilities cover Rutherford County. Gaston and Mecklenburg Counties started their own county police departments and left the Sheriff to run the jail and courthouse.
In 2020 I stated that it would take Legislative action to make that even a possibility. I have been researching lately and came across a Senate Bill from 1983 that specifically addresses this issue for Rutherford County.
It was a time when the Commissioners had to face the possibility that their Sheriff might be in some legal difficulty and they would need something in place in the event that he could not perform his duties. The Sheriff (at that time) got it worked out so the County did not pursue it but the Legislation still stands. It reads as follows:
GENERAL ASSEMBLY OF NORTH CAROLINA
SENATE BILL 231
The General Assembly of North Carolina enacts:
Section 1. The Rutherford County Board of Commissioners is authorized to establish a county police force, to appoint a police chief, to employ other police officers, and to establish the jurisdiction of the county police force within Rutherford County, effective on or after the first Monday in December of 1986.
Sec. 2. Pursuant to this act and other provisions of law, the Rutherford County Board of Commissioners shall adopt and promulgate rules governing the establishment and operation of the Rutherford County police force. Such rules shall be filed with the clerk to the Board of County Commissioners and shall be made available for public inspection at reasonable times.
Sec. 3. (a) The Rutherford County Board of Commissioners MAY put the question of establishing a county police force to a referendum of the qualified voters of Rutherford County. The referendum shall be conducted by the Rutherford County Board of Elections under the provisions of Chapter 163 of the General Statutes.
(b) The questions on the ballot shall be:
“@ FOR establishment of a county police force. @ AGAINST establishment of a county police force.”
(c) If the Rutherford County Board of Commissioners CHOOSES to hold a referendum under this section and a majority of the voters vote “FOR establishment of a county police force”, then the Rutherford County Board of Commissioners shall appoint a county police force under Sections 1 and 2 of this act.
Sec. 4. This act is effective upon ratification.
In the General Assembly read three times and ratified, this the 6th day of May, 1983.
Two very important words here, “MAY” and “CHOOSES”, mean that the Commissioners can decide on their own to implement this policy without a vote if they so choose.
The reason that this is so very important at this time is if the County is going to do this they need to decide before the November election. It would be much easier to implement this change before a new administration takes over. Not impossible mind you but easier on everybody concerned.
With all the issues that we currently have with the jail, possible corruption, excessive violence complaints, and outright negligence it is time for the county to step up and do something for the citizens of this county. There is little to no confidence of our current Sheriff’s Office by the general public. It is time to change that.
It is time to let the good officers shine and given them all some protection from political repercussions of their own beliefs. It is time for accountability. It is time for action.
If this is something you feel it is time for, contact your County Commissioners. You can contact any of them not just your district representative and let them know. You can leave them a message at 828-287-6060 or you can email them at the following addresses:
Bryan King, Chair (email@example.com)
Alan Toney, Vice-Chair (firstname.lastname@example.org)5
Michael Benfield (email@example.com)
Greg Lovelace (firstname.lastname@example.org)
David Hunt (email@example.com)
The next County Commissioner meeting is Tuesday September 6th at 6 p.m. in the County Annex Building on 289 N.Main Street in Rutherfordton. Anyone can sign up before the meeting to speak for two (2) minutes and let them know how you feel about this.
Stand up and speak out. This is your community and your tax dollars. Let’s bring transparency, trust and accountability back to the police in our county.