Addressing recent county developments

Published 11:04 am Thursday, March 25, 2021

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From Beaufort County Sheriff Ernie Coleman:

There is a lot of misinformation being spread around Beaufort County about abolishing the Office of the Sheriff, establishing a county police department and the replacement of my deputies as school resource officers (SRO) with contracted private security. 

In the next several news releases I will explain and dispel a lot of this misinformation that has caused a lot of confusion and concern by the citizens of this county and is being intentionally spread by some Beaufort County Commissioners and members of the Beaufort County School Board. The Beaufort County Commissioners and School Board can spend all the money they want to on private security in your schools or any other wasteful projects in this county as long as the taxpayers keep allowing it, however, I assure the citizens of this county, Hood Richardson nor any other person alone can change the North Carolina state constitution that mandates the Office of the Sheriff. The North Carolina Supreme Court has already ruled on several cases that The Office of the Sheriff is not an entity or department of a county and therefore, does not answer to county policy, procedures or ordinances. The common language when referring to the Sheriff’s Office for many years has been the Sheriff’s Department, however, the proper title is the Sheriff’s Office or the Office of the Sheriff since it is an elected office and answers only to the people. 

The law establishes that the funding for the Office of the Sheriff comes from the taxpayers through the respective county government of each county.  

So, I rely on the taxpayers to fund the services that are in place for your protection and under my control. To abolish the North Carolina Sheriff would require legislation to be introduced into the legislature that would abolish the Office of the Sheriff and replace it with some other entity, then voted on and passed by both chambers of state government, then go to the State Board of Elections to be put on a ballot to be voted on in a general election for the entire state to vote on an amendment to the state constitution to abolish the Office of the Sheriff and have the majority of North Carolina citizens vote for the abolishment. So, with that said, does any citizen in this county really believe that the entire State of North Carolina knows, loves, and respects the opinions of a civilian part time politician county commissioner named Hood Richardson to actually allow this to happen? The people of this county are being intentionally misled for political purposes which is causing a lot of unnecessary frustration and time spent on defending the integrity and leadership of my office. 

Services such as school security and courthouse security are services that are negotiated and contracted through the Sheriff or private companies. They are not mandated by the constitution or state law. I will continue to serve and protect Beaufort County as a constitutional officer that answers to the people who elected me and not the county government. I was elected and sworn to protect the people of this county from enemies both foreign or domestic and despite the lack of financial support from the county, I assure you I will continue to honor my oath to the people of this county to protect their safety and defend their rights. 

As far as a county police department, it would also take special legislation from the state legislature that would give Beaufort County permission to have a county police department. I have spoken with Representative Keith Kidwell and he advised me that Hood Richardson spoke with him about this. Representative Kidwell advised me that he told Commissioner Richardson that under no circumstance would he sponsor such a ridiculous bill. The chances of a bill of this magnitude getting through the legislature is practically 0%. There have only been two counties out of 100 that have had a county police department. Mecklenburg County, with a population of over one million people and Gaston County, with a population of over 200,000.  Mecklenburg County has already abandoned that idea. 

Even if the people of this county allowed Hood Richardson to somehow have his own police department it would not affect the fact that the state constitution still mandates that the Sheriff is the chief law enforcement officer of the county and with a population of under 50,000 people the commissioners would have to use the millions of dollars of COVID money that is coming in now to pay for this project just like the Beaufort County School Board is now doing to hire their own private police force for the schools. With no plan to pay for these self-serving projects on a continuous basis, in the future the commissioners and school board are counting on the government to continue to print money and put our children in a debt they will never recover from. The county commissioners just voted to give the school board an additional $650,000 to implement a private police force on top of what it cost to have my highly trained deputies protect your children in our schools. With this move I have had 18 sworn deputies defunded since the first of this year.