Charles Stuart Blackwood
Candidate for Orange County Sheriff
February 19, 1960
100 Pinewood Dr. Chapel Hill NC 27517
Retired Major of Operations Orange County Sheriff's Office
Currently working as a Security Officer with Show Pros Event Services of Chapel Hill
My family is from Chapel Hill and I have lived here all my life Cell: (919) 260-6680 / Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
1.How do you rate the current functioning of the Sheriff’s Office under the longtime leadership of Lindy Pendergrass? Indentify three things that are good and three things that need improvement.The Sheriff's Office has been taken from antiquated and very inefficient agency to one of the most responsive and well equipped agencies in the state. I recall working as a deputy before Sheriff Pendergrass took office and it was common practice for deputies to decide which calls they took and those they did not. I can recall responding to residential break-in's days after they were reported. Incident reports were rarely written and deputies received very little training. Immediately after Sheriff Pendergrass took office he focused on the lack of patrol vehicles and the pay for deputies. The second phase of his focus was on equipment and training. In a very short time the Sheriff's Office was transformed from that of a joke to one of the most respected agencies in the area, if not the state. With this transformation came interest from qualified officers wanting to work here. The level of effectiveness was obvious and continues to this day.
Three Good Things: 1) Community Confidence, meaning residents know we're there and they have, for the most part, placed their trust in our ability to provide community peace through competent law enforcement. That's important because perception becomes reality. If residents feel safe in their communities, they take ownership in living there and as a result the community becomes safe. Likewise if residents feel they are not safe that perception becomes their reality. 2) We have a very dedicated staff of members who care deeply about the services they provide to the residents of the county. They place resident's needs above their own and are committed to doing the very best job they can. 3) Due to the level of service the citizens have received over the years we have their support. This is very important because the job of the deputy sheriff is enhanced by the involvement of concerned citizens.
The people are the police and the police are the people. Three Things That Need Improvement: 1) Salaries need to be reviewed to ensure they are in line with others across the state. We also need to address salary compression. Deputies feel as though they have no room for advancement or pay increase. If we're to be competitive with area agencies, our pay and in-step pay increases must also be competitive. 2) With an increasing number of people moving into the county, we are realizing a dramatic increase in calls our deputies are responding to. Redundant reporting practices are costly and inefficient. Paperless transmitting of incident reports directly to RMS (Records Management System) allows for the deputy to complete and submit reports from the field thus allowing them to remain in their patrol areas and available for calls. It also cuts down on the amount of paper used by the agency as well as area required to store written reports. These reports are also readily available for area law enforcement agencies to review in the event they may be looking at similar incidents involving the same suspects. 3) Fit-For-Duty, Proper conditioning can reduce and help prevent job related injuries. When deputies are subjected to physically demanding situations, to whatever degree, the lack of proper conditioning unnecessarily places them as well as those they are entrusted to protect, in jeopardy. With the resources available in this county it's simply unacceptable that our deputies don't have a facility to improve their physical conditioning.
2. What in your record as a public official or other experience demonstrates your ability to be effective on the issues you’ve identified? Please be as specific as possible in relating past accomplishments to current goals.I bring 32-years of experience working within county government, which allows me to understand and balance the needs of the agency against the limitations of the county to provide those needs. I have demonstrated the ability to work through complex issues within county government and see them through to a successful conclusion. I have been involved in the hiring process of deputies and submitted the required documents to Sheriff's Education Training and Standards concerning the background investigations of those deputies. I have conducted Internal Investigations for alleged wrong doing of deputies and prepared documentation and testified at Administrative Hearings as to my findings. I have, at the direction of the Sheriff, terminated employees where there services were no longer required for one reason or the other. I have prepared and submitted the required documentation in these instances as well. I have written, validated, set up and conducted Promotional Assessment Centers to evaluate prospective employees being considered for promotion by our agency and served on Promotional Assessment Centers for other agencies. I have effectively prepared Work Performance Plan Reviews for deputies and non-sworn personnel under my command. I served on WCHL's Community Leaders Forum for several years. I was instrumental in the implementation of the 800mhz radio system, which required countless hours of meetings with many different agencies from this county as well as others across the state. My work ethic, organizational skills and attention to detail allowed us to power down our old radio system and power up the new one in seamless fashion.
In the first year of implementation there were several “fixes” which required the vendor to come on site and manage computer systems in each radio installed in our patrol cars as well as each hand-held unit assigned to every deputy. I arranged and supervised the process and it was completed with little if any interruption to the schedules of deputies or their ability to remain in service and available for call. During the construction of the new Justice Facility I acted as liaison between the builders and the Sheriff. We held weekly meetings to ensure all of our needs and expectations with respect to the new facility were met. Once the building was completed I along with a newly hired deputy, moved all the offices, records and furniture into the new facility. I also worked with Triangle Office Equipment to ensure each office was set up and furnished to the specifications of the Sheriff. When our move was completed we noted that our cell phone service was drastically affected by being in the lower level of the facility and calls could not be made or received from our offices. I worked with our cell phone provider to design and install an amplification system to boost our signal so that calls could be made from any location within the facility. I have a working knowledge of the radio system and assisted in the design of the template of all the radio frequencies on our portion of the VIPER network. I went to Pitt County and received specialized training in Electronic Monitoring as an alternative to the incarceration of certain subjects that meet qualification for supervised release, which serves as a means of reducing the jail population. I successfully supervised one such case in Orange County. Because of my knowledge of the day to day operations of the sheriff's office, I was handpicked by the General Counsel of the North Carolina Sheriff's Association, Edmund W. Caldwell, Jr. to assist in the development of The Sheriff's Leadership Institute, training for newly elected Sheriff's across the state. I am the only candidate who has served in or supervised all the divisions of the sheriff's office. As Major of Operations my duties required me to respond to and direct all divisions. My Administrative abilities, leadership skills, experience in the operations of the sheriff's office and my compassion for others, more than qualify to serve as the next Sheriff of Orange County.
3. The INDY’s mission is to help build a just community in the triangle. Please point to a specific position in your platform that would, if achieved, help further that goal.In considering this question, one must first have a vision of what constitutes a “Just Community”. Without knowing the INDY's description of these components I am left to define them on my own hope I come close. I feel members of a “Just Community” should strive to accept responsibility for their actions, be civil to one another, promote justice, demonstrate openness with others, maintain integrity, celebrate freedom, recognize and respect cultural differences as well as cultural similarities, and always do their best. With these principals as my guide, I would strive to create a culture change within the agency by creating an environment where members have the desire to perform at their highest level. I want their character to leave an imprint on the hearts and minds of those they serve. I once read a commencement speech given to a group of graduating medical students by the Dean of the Medical School. In the speech the Dean referred to Exodus 3:5 saying that when Moses came upon the burning bush and the LORD called to him in the midst of the bush, “Moses, Moses! Here I am, don't come closer take your shoes from your feet, for the place you are standing is holy ground.” The Dean went on to explain the the LORD didn't say, “You're standing on holy ground” he said, “The place you're standing is holy ground.” meaning that the place upon which you stand is made holy by your actions. He suggested that as doctors going out into the world they should approach their patients as a Priest would an alter. They should make that place they stand holy by their actions. I would expect the same of my deputies. People come to us when they are in need and very often during very emotional and stressful situations. They call on us for a number of reasons; we encourage them to, we have the authority to act, we're available 24/7 and we can provide them with alternatives. We owe it to them to treat them with respect and we should strive to make the place where we are standing holy by our actions. Only then can we build bridges of trust with our communities. I hope I didn't ramble too long but the point is worth being made.
4. What do you think about the Decriminalization of Marijuana?The years of seeing the problems brought on by the illegal sell and use of marijuana cause me to be somewhat conflicted on it's decriminalization. We can't even come close to collecting enough taxes on the legal sell alcohol to address the health and social issues or the criminal justice costs brought on by its use. Why would we think we could do a better job with marijuana? I would imagine taxes would be high enough to cause some to seek non-tax payed marijuana just as people seek non-tax payed whiskey. I would suggest that legalization does not in any way mean we're condoning it's use but rather strict regulation and distribution. Legalization could reduce thousands of people being held in our prisons simply because they were re-incarcerated for nothing more than smoking pot while they were on parole for their original crimes. Legalization is an issue that's been discussed for over 50 years and I expect it will continue to be discussed for some time to come. As Sheriff, I will enforce the laws handed down by our Legislature without regard to my personal feelings.
5.When you suspect a newly admitted inmate is an undocumented immigrant, do you feel the need to report it to the U. S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement?No, the mere suspicion they are undocumented would not cause me to “feel the need” to notify Immigration and Customs Enforcement. However, if state or federal guidelines required the submission of fingerprints of those admitted to the jail, those guidelines would be followed.
6.Identify a principle stand you have taken or would be willing to take if elected, even if you suspect might cost you popularity with voters.I'm not certain I have a good answer to this question but as Sheriff I would not be competing in a popularity contest no matter the circumstance. As I have stated before the job of Sheriff is simple yet complex, it's grounded in the law but guided by common sense. In most instances where two or more people are involved, at least one is not going to happy with the position you take. If the position taken is sanctioned and supported by law, that is the position I will take.
7. Roadblocks and checkpoints can be used as a way to racially profile drivers and passengers. What policies should be in place in regards to roadblocks and checkpoints? Under what circumstances should they be used?If we conduct checking stations or roadblocks, they will established and operated in accordance with the provisions of the United States Constitution and the Constitution of North Carolina. Information gathering checkpoints are conducted from time to time where a crime has been committed and the likelihood a motorist may have seen something that would assist in solving that crime. Generally, a time frame just before the crime until just after the crime is when the information gathering checkpoint is held. Deputies inquire of motorists if they saw anything pertaining to the crime under investigation. Often they have pre-printed handouts informing motorists of what information is being sought and why. DWI Checkpoints are also deployed from time to time and they too have guidelines which must be followed.
8. Identify some areas in the Sheriff’s Department budget where money could be cut and others where more funding is needed.Every effort will be made to utilize cost saving measures while providing the level of service the citizens deserve and to carry out the Mission of the Sheriff's Office, which is; The protection of life, property and constitutional guarantees, the enforcement of General Statutes of the State of North Carolina, the apprehension of law violators and the repression of crime, the preservation of social tranquility, safety and well being of all citizens, the recovery and safe keeping of property, the prevention of civil disorder, to provide service to the courts and criminal justice system and to provide humane safe keeping of all persons confined to the Orange County Detention Center.
9. Overcapacity in Orange County Jail has persisted in recent years. Is this a problem due to housing Federal inmates? Is there a permanent solution?No, as to a “permanent solution”, I'm not able to give you an answer to that question but I do intend to explore several options to reduce the jail population.
10. How do you see the OC Sheriff’s Office Working with municipal Police Departments?I want the Sheriff's Office to improve working relations, communication and collaboration with all area agencies. We must take a global approach and create an environment where all area agencies work, train and respond as one.
11. In what ways would you communicate and work with the Board of Commissioners, and other elected officials in Orange County.Initially, I plan to meet with all the county commissioners and establish open lines of communication. I hope to be able to work with them as a team to deal with those issues that come up within the county and serve them in a manner which brings credit to my character and reflects well on the agency. When conflict arrises, I pledge to be quick to listen, slow to speak and even slower to anger. Only by working together and placing the needs of the citizens first will we be successful.
12. What are the needs modernize the department in terms of technology?I want to implement the use of social network such as “Twitter” as means of quickly getting information out to the public and the media about incidents going on in a particular area of the county. Agencies have used Twitter to get out in front of events and having enough followers who will read and re-post the information I feel this will serve a very effective tool in fighting and responding to criminal activity. I would stress that this is an additional tool and not a replacement for traditional methods of sharing information with the public. It would not be used for people to report emergencies to our office, to do this they would still need to call 911. There is some discussion about an improved radio system being adopted countywide, I would like to explore paperless reporting and reduction of redundant reporting writing by deputies and office staff. I want to utilize mapping and tracking of crime trends to help forecast where future crimes are likely to occur. This information will allow us to be proactive in our approach to the patrolling of our districts resulting in our patrol units being more effective in deterring crime.