Recently, we were asked if it matters that Sheriff candidate Clarence Birkhead disagrees with the Hillsborough town manager about what happened with accreditation of the Hillsborough Police Department back in 2009. Our answer is that it does matter. It is an issue in this Durham Sheriff’s election. One of two candidates will become our future sheriff. Birkhead is the challenger. Mike Andrews is the incumbent. Both are good men. Neither is perfect. Who among us is?
But what really matters to PA PAC in this contest is that people do not die in Durham’s jail. During Andrews’ tenure, six people have died in the jail. What matters to us is that our law enforcement officers do not hold people whom our courts have released so that ICE agents can pick them up. Sheriff Andrews cooperates with ICE on detainer requests which have no force in law. It matters whether our neighbors’ families are split apart. It matters that Durham families live in fear of our county’s largest law enforcement agency. In this election, these are the things that really matter. We wish Clarence Birkhead had not had difficulty with accreditation when he was chief of police in Hillsborough ten years ago. But what matters in this Durham Sheriff’s election is a lot more important than that.
Clarence Birkhead offers us a chance to begin again with dignity and safety for the people held in our jail. He will not honor ICE detainer requests. He is in touch with the whole Durham community. His candidacy offers the hope that there can be a new and better relationship between Durham’s people and their law enforcement officials. If Clarence Birkhead is elected PA PAC will hold him to high standards. He knows what matters. On that basis, he has our support.