GREENSBORO, N.C. (WGHP) – In 2018 perhaps the biggest surprise in elections across the Piedmont Triad was the upset in the race for Guilford County sheriff.
Republican BJ Barnes had served as sheriff since 1994, but after a quarter-century, he lost his job to Democrat Danny Rogers by about 10,000 votes.
Rogers almost immediately fired about two dozen employees loyal to Barnes, and he set about to transform the office and honor his campaign promises. He brought a different approach than had Barnes.
Starting with early voting on April 28, Rogers must face his employers – the voting public – in search of a second term. Crime rates in Guilford County, like many places across the country, have risen in the post-pandemic world, and the cultural view of law enforcement has evolved in the wake of the murder of George Floyd by a policeman in Minneapolis.
As you might expect, six Republicans – but also two Democrats – have lined up to run against Rogers. Several of them are familiar names from the Guilford County Sheriff’s Office or area law enforcement in general. All have experience and expertise to tout.
To introduce them to you, we are handling each party separately. So meet the Republicans (in alphabetical order) who want to be the next sheriff of Guilford County:
- Phil Byrd is a 30-year veteran as a deputy sheriff who rose through the ranks to the level of captain.
- Ed Melvin served in the Air Force and with the North Carolina Highway Patrol before starting his own business.
- Adam Moore is an active officer who completed his basic training in 2014 and has worked in a variety of roles.
- Randy Powers has about 40 years of experience, working for both Greensboro Police and as chief deputy to Barnes.
- Billy Queen worked with federal law enforcement in various assignments for the Border Patrol and ATF.
- William White has nearly two decades of experience but also touts his extensive education in law enforcement.
We set up out to find out more about each person and why he thinks he has the skills, experience and vision to oversee the roughly $70 million budget the Guilford County sheriff commands.
We asked each candidate the same three questions. Their responses are also presented in alphabetical order, lightly edited for style and structure. There will be a separate presentation about the Democrats.
What in your experience makes you the best candidate for sheriff of Guilford County?
PHIL BYRD: I served 30 years as a Guilford County deputy sheriff. During my career I was assigned to the Detention Bureau, Patrol Operations, Criminal Investigations Division, and Narcotics Division. I was a member of the Crisis Negotiation Team for 7 years, as well I served on the Sheriff’s Emergency Response Team for 4 years. My supervisory assignments consisted of 9 years as a detective sergeant, 6 assigned to Vice/Narcotics and 3 assigned as a district detective sergeant supervising five detectives with the duties of investigating burglary, thefts, fraud and crimes against children. I served 3 years as a district lieutenant assigned to field operations. My duties were the assistant commander of the Patrol and Criminal Investigations Division of the Field District. I served 10 years as a captain before completing my 30 years of service. I commanded four divisions during this 10-year span: Internal Affairs Division, Personal & Training Division, School Resource Officers Division and completing 3 years as a field operations commander in the Northwest Section of Guilford County. The experience I gained throughout my career, from working the jail, patrol, and detective, and progressing through the sustained levels of responsibility have prepared me to lead the sheriff’s office in a professional direction. I have the skills and knowledge required to oversee a staff of 673 employees, a $70 million budget and two major jail operations.
ED MELVIN: I bring to the sheriff’s office two significant prongs of experience: law enforcement and business owner. I spent 7 years in the Air Force in military police and earned the rank of staff sergeant. After leaving the Air Force, in 1989, I joined the NC Highway Patrol, where I served as a trooper for 24 years. I retired in 2012. In 2013, I expanded my landscape company to perform highway maintenance work for the NCDOT. My company currently has more than 65 workers and a multimillion-dollar annual budget. I bring over 30 years of law enforcement experience and successful business owner experience to the table. No other candidate comes close to that type of experience. I know what it’s like to hire, balance a business budget, promote, make important decisions, etc. I do it every day.
ADAM PERRY MOORE: I stand out as the only Republican candidate who is actively working as a law enforcement officer. Unlike the other candidates, my experience isn’t from years or even decades in the past. We need a sheriff that has current knowledge of the law enforcement field, or we will go backwards.
RANDY POWERS: I have well over 40 years of experience in law enforcement. I began as a civilian with Greensboro Police Department at the age of 19. I worked in records and as a CSI (crime scene investigator). I was declared an expert in the areas of fingerprints, photography and breathalyzer. I was hired by [Guilford County] Sheriff [Paul] Gibson after my 21st birthday and served in patrol as well as a CSI. I was recruited into the NC License and Theft, DMV; I was a field investigator and progressed to director for all of NC. While serving as director I was featured on the “48 Hours” TV show as the top agency in the nation on auto theft recoveries and arrests. I later served as chief deputy with Guilford County Sheriff’s Office under Sheriff BJ Barnes. While serving with Sheriff Barnes, I was one of five officers in the United States nominated for our contribution to law enforcement. During my tenure as chief deputy, GCSO was recognized as one of the top sheriff’s offices in North Carolina.
BILLY QUEEN: I experienced the horrors of war in Vietnam. I worked the streets of High Point as a patrolman and then as a sergeant with the High Point Police Department. I graduated from Guilford College with a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice. I joined the United States Border Patrol and worked the southern border in California. I speak Spanish. I joined the United States Justice Department’s Bureau of ATF, where I worked as a special agent with top-secret clearance for the next 20 years, working all over the United States, including as an administrator in the bureau’s headquarters in Washington DC. I commanded ATF’s Special Response Team 5 in California and was responsible for all the high-risk operations in the western part of the United States. I’ve testified as a gang expert in state and federal courts all over the United States. I have taught and still teach gang and undercover classes all over the United States and Canada. I have worked some of the most sophisticated, deep, long-term undercover operations ever conducted by the United States government. My experience didn’t end at the borders of Guilford County but at the borders of the United States of America.
WILLIAM WHITE: The best candidate will not bring tired and archaic ideas forward and expect them to solve modern problems. I am not doing this as a retirement hobby, out of boredom, or for a shiny badge. I am vested in this county. I live here, my children attend school here, we worship here, we patronize the businesses here, and I care deeply about the future of our county. Often, candidates run for this office because they are unable to give up their “glory days” as a young law enforcement official; I am not that candidate. I have served in roles ranging from street patrol, community relations, and the SWAT team, after the nearly 15 years I spent in law enforcement, local government, and federal government. I am a combat Marine that led two successful tours in Fallujah, Iraq. I completed my Bachelor’s Degree in Law and Policy, my Master’s Degree in Public Policy and will finish my Doctorate in Public Administration this summer. I have extensive experience in quantitative analysis of governmental budget and staffing systems. I am a candidate who brings a fresh perspective to the problems we face as a community. I am the only candidate that believes our Constitution should not be used as nothing more than an expendable opinion. I will ensure that all our rights and freedoms remain intact, including the Second Amendment. I will never forget that law enforcement’s authority was, is, and forever will be, born from the people.
What are three keys to lowering the crime rate in Guilford county?
- Overcome the issue of retaining officers. Staffing levels must be improved to afford the full effect of crime-reduction strategies. Patrol shifts levels must be brought to a level consistent with the communities needs and responsive to service.
- Leadership must become part of the solution in supporting officers in “initiating” law enforcement actions, vehicle stops and further investigations of suspicion of criminal offenses. Leadership must support proactive policing efforts in order to reduce crime. Officers must feel supported from the top leaders in their efforts and not feel they will be vilified if complained on, or if actions are not deemed acceptable by the public alone. Being proactive in policing our neighborhoods will reduce crime and will lead to less violent crime.
- Proactive strategies that work are about communications, data and predictability factors, along with rapid intervention and arrest of individuals. These strategies only work if they are communicated and accepted from the top to the bottom of the command structure. The two factors that affect crime are displacement and/or arrest of the violators of criminal offenses. Displacement of crime refers to moving the criminals from your geographical area. Arrest of violators refers to understanding your data and with probability factors in favor, acting on this information rapidly. The long-term objective should be intervention of juveniles before they become “part” of the criminal justice system. Intervention begins at the earliest of ages, 8 and 9 years old are presumable good age ranges. Guilford County is no different than any other jurisdiction, Juvenile offenders are on the increase across this country.
ADAM PERRY MOORE:
- We must first focus on community policing efforts it has shown to be a big reducer in crime and help solve crime.
- We must hold people accountable for their actions and uphold the law.
- We will also work hand in hand with all county departments and resources to ensure we are serving all citizens of Guilford County in the best ways possible.
- You must first stop using officers only to react to crime. It is vital that officers become more proactive in communities. Stop this stigma of “the only time we see an officer is when a crime has been committed.” Officers must embody these communities with their presence and assistance. Blend into these communities and become “a part of” not “apart from” the community.
- We must begin some type of youth intervention program at schools. Many of our school children are from single-parent homes. With no “father figure” in the household, some of these young boys are growing up without proper guidance. We must intervene at an earlier age before it’s too late. By doing so, it will pay dividends in the future with lower crime rates and prospering young adults. I recommend an effective youth intervention program that help guide our children in the right direction.
- We must open more vocational and technical schools to teach skillsets like welding, electrical, auto mechanics, HVAC, etc. If citizens are trained in certain high-demand fields, they would become more easily employable. The lack of money and jobs are usually the root cause of many crimes.
- Initializing directed patrol within the county utilizing both marked and unmarked vehicles.
- Establish neighborhood meetings to discuss problems within the communities and help develop programs to deter and lower crime rates.
- Encourage the citizens to report suspicious activity and advise officers of vacant buildings that might be a location utilized for drug distribution along with other crimes.
- Leadership: Not just leadership in the sheriff’s office but leadership throughout the county. A significant reduction in crime will come as a result of a team effort led by an intelligent, strong and courageous sheriff. Where the sheriff wins the trust and confidence of government officials throughout the cities and the county along with community leaders, then and only then can we win the trust and confidence of the citizens of Guilford County to the point where we all work for a better and safer community.
- Understanding the communities you are sworn to protect and serve. It’s not enough to just know where and what types of crimes are being committed, but it is more important to know why. Knowing why is the greatest and most effective tool in the sheriff’s toolbox. The criminal mind doesn’t start on the street with that first criminal act, it starts a home. It’s perpetuated in our schools and on the streets. Understanding and addressing this issue is one of the greatest things a sheriff needs to understand and respond to.
- Professionalism: When members of the sheriff’s office can see and understand that the Guilford County Sheriff’s Office is strictly run on a professional basis, morale will improve. And as morale improves, performance will improve. And as performance improves. results will improve. A professional sheriff will surround himself with professionals where all decisions are made with what is in the best interest of the sheriff’s office and the people of Guilford County. When the community understands that their sheriff’s office does not operate with any degree of prejudice or bias but on a professional level only, a spirit of cooperation will follow along with a safer community.
- Stopping violent, retaliatory crime: Crime can often have virus-like tendencies, meaning violent criminal acts inspire other violent criminal acts. Our office will be the barrier that prevents the spread, by engaging the community to locate the source of the violence.
- Early intervention: We will not leave our youth behind to be consumed by violent criminal gangs that wish to exploit their vulnerabilities. Finally, we will make every effort to ensure those that were previously incarcerated, never return.
- Antirecividism: When our office encounters violent criminals, we will strip them of the anonymity they hide behind and ensure they no longer present a threat to our beloved community members. If you wish violence upon Guilford County, I am not your candidate.
How would you make the sheriff’s office more transparent and accountable to the public?
PHIL BYRD: The sheriff is elected by the “citizens.” In the simplest terms, they are who the sheriff is employed by. The only way to gain trust and achieve accountability is by “transparency” within the sheriff’s office. The sheriff must be accessible and resourceful to the media, as well as the public. The information of concern should be readily available, and a press release should be made as soon as feasible concerning safety, crimes and any other happenings likely to be of concern to our citizens. Any actions taken that would likely cause panic or distrust should be available and released. Barring no legal or investigational reason information should be held, transparency should be of the most important to the public.
ADAM PERRY MOORE: I believe we must first simply be honest with our citizens and let them know what the sheriff’s office is doing at all times, when possible. When there are things that can’t be released to the public, explain to them why not. There are many times we see sheriffs say they aren’t releasing information but in no way give an explanation on why they aren’t. Next, I plan on implementing recurring community meetings either at the sheriff’s district offices or other places throughout the county so our citizens can not only hear from the sheriff but speak to him face to face. It’s time we have a sheriff that is in the county just as much as he is in his office.
ED MELVIN: The sheriff’s office does not belong to the sheriff; it belongs to the citizens of the county. Therefore, it is paramount that the office that is owned by the taxpayers be accountable and transparent to its owners. Body-cam footage should not be hidden – it belongs to the taxpayers. Everything the sheriff’s office does (with the exception of anything that would compromise a case or investigation) should be explained or made public as soon as possible.
RANDY POWERS: The sheriff’s office should create periodic meetings, led by the high sheriff and including people from our communities throughout our county to discuss problems within our county. I would share with the public how the office of the sheriff can assist neighborhoods. As sheriff, I would regularly visit with the public, listening and discussing the needs of the people, and as a group make recommendations for safety of the citizens.
BILLY QUEEN: Sheriff BJ Barnes had a radio program where people could call in and ask any questions they wanted. I intend to reinstate that program. Our Public Information Office will be available at least five days a week and following all significant events. I will be available during all significant events to take questions. I will ask for an independent audit of the sheriff’s office to be conducted on a yearly basis, and the results of those audits will be public record. I, or the PIO will address the public on a regular basis with crime stats, with significant events concerning the office and the county and any other matters that may be of concern to our citizens.
WILLIAM WHITE: Law enforcement is a community effort. For our office to be successful, we rely upon all our community partners and various stakeholders. Our office will take pride in our work again, something that has been hard to do as of late. As sheriff, I work for the public, I am accountable to the public, and my authority is granted by the public. I will never forget that. Our administration will enhance the “police 2 citizen” database while incorporating a new crime reporting and tracking app. Citizens will be an active participant in reporting, tracking, and monitoring criminal activity. I believe our media partners play a larger role in law enforcement, then they have traditionally done in the past. We will be asking local media outlets to remain side-by-side with some of our employees, so we are transparent in our operations. For far too long, law enforcement has been hidden under a veil of secrecy. Why? We serve the people, if they want to know what we are doing, we inform them or we find another job.