by Mary Hopper
NEW SHERIFF TO BE CHOSEN MAY 8
While the outcome of seven races will, for all intents, be concluded on May 8, the election of Mecklenburg County District Attorney (separate article) and Sheriff merit your immediate attention. That is true because everyone, not just some in districts, vote on them, but also because the operations of these two agencies impact so many lives, especially women and children. Note as well that incumbent Mecklenburg County Clerk of Superior Court Elisa Chinn-Gary had no opponent so is in effect re-elected.
Here is a brief overview on the Sheriff’s race.
Irwin Carmichael, Antoine Ensley, Sr, and Garry L. McFadden are vying to be Mecklenburg’s sheriff in what has become one of the more visible races. Whoever wins the May 8 primary is elected, since no Republican filed. Once again, studying these candidates and their issues is an urgent need.
Incumbent Sheriff Irwin Carmichael began as a reserve volunteer and won election in 2014 by a 60-40% vote. Antoine Ensley, who lost to him in the 2014 primary, is retired from Charlotte Mecklenburg Police Department (CMPD) and works as Human Resources Program Manager for the City of Charlotte. The third candidate, Garry L McFadden, parlayed his long years as a CMPD homicide detective into the TV show “I am Homicide” on the Investigation Discovery channel.
McFadden’s candidate website may be accessed by clicking here. This Charlotte Observer article, announcing his candidacy, provides an overview of his 34-years with CMPD and describes his activities (televison show and community volunteer work) since retiring from the department.
DUTIES OF SHERIFF & EMERGING ISSUES
The Mecklenburg Sheriff Department has three duties – operating the jail, securing the courthouse and serving court papers. Dissimilar from other counties, it does no policing. CMPD and the town police departments handle local policing.
Much of the early conversation about this race has focused on the Sheriff’s intersection with immigration through its twelve-year history of using 287 (g), leading to a Feb 7 Charlotte Observer headline:
“Your vote may decide whether Mecklenburg County helps deport undocumented immigrants”
The article is a good starting point since it quickly stakes the three out:
“For over a decade, Mecklenburg County’s sheriff has had a hand in deporting hundreds if not thousands of undocumented immigrants. Now that could change.
The deportations have come under a controversial program known as 287(g), which partners sheriff’s deputies with federal immigration officials.
Under the program, deputies use a federal database to identify inmates who are undocumented immigrants, whether they’re in jail for traffic offenses or violent crimes. Federal officials then decide whether to start the process of deportation.
Sheriff Irwin Carmichael is a Democrat who supports the program. In the May primary he faces two challengers who oppose it.”
Sheriff Carmichael was quoted in the March 14 Observer saying, “A person will never encounter the 287 (g) program unless they get arrested for breaking the law.”
To get a feel for the scope of this issue, the Observer also submitted a public records request to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) for felony and misdemeanor charges and learned 901 of those it encountered through 287 (g) had prior criminal convictions; 406 did not.
A second issue receiving public attention is the ending of in-person visitation in county jails with the recent implementation of virtual visitations. The videoconferences, which are conducted by a private contractor, incur a fee paid by the family. Carmichael has cited security concerns and said the sheriff’s office does not profit from this private video service.
While the immigration community has been vigilant on sounding the alert on 287 (g), advocates should look at emerging issues as this campaign evolves. Advocates on women’s and children’s rights might want to stay tuned about the candidates’ ideas on addressing domestic violence since it is the sheriff’s deputies who serve DV orders and are able, when specified in the orders, to take guns. Candidates might also be asked to weigh-in on the formation of a Family Justice Center.
Keep checking in. Your next chance could be the candidates forum, 2 pm April 22 at Biddle Auditorium at Johnson C Smith.
A final note
In subsequent articles, you will learn about four district races that will be concluded on May 8. County Commission Districts 2,3 and 4 have active primaries but no Republican opponents. Since NC House District 107 Kelly Alexander has no primary, he like Mecklenburg County Clerk of Superior Court, Elisa Chinn-Gary is in effect elected.