CHARLOTTE — Ahead of the primary election on May 17, Channel 9 is asking candidates in several local races why they’re running and what they hope to accomplish if elected.
We sent all candidates contending for the the Mecklenburg County Sheriff and District Attorney six questions and asked them to respond in about 100 words.
READ MORE coverage from The Political Beat HERE
Three Democrats, including incumbent Sheriff Garry McFadden, are running to be Mecklenburg County Sheriff. There is no Republican candidate in the race.
Two Democrats, including incumbent DA Spencer Merriweather, are running to be Mecklenburg County District Attorney. There is no Republican candidate in the race.
Below are the complete, unedited responses of each candidate who chose to participate.
- What is your occupation?
- Why are you running?
- What changes are you proposing?
- Is the Detention Center safe? How do you intend to improve conditions for inmates and workers?
- Should 287(g) be reimplemented in Mecklenburg County?
- What policies do you intend to implement to reduce recidivism?
Aujiena (Gina) Hicks
What is your occupation? Master Detention Officer Gaston County Sheriff’s Office
Why are you running? I want to be the Sheriff of Mecklenburg County simply because I care. I am invested in not only Mecklenburg County citizens but also The Mecklenburg County Sheriff’s Office, its staff, and the detainees housed at The Mecklenburg County Sheriff’s Office. Mecklenburg County and all its citizens need public safety leadership that is committed, caring, compassionate and concerned about more than just politics with self-serving agendas. My overall experience, leadership, and education received, at The Mecklenburg County Sheriff’s Office, as well as my knowledge of the organization, its functions, and how to apply them safely, effectively, efficiently, and with fiscal responsibility make me the most qualified for the position. My understanding of the role of the Sheriff and its effects both in and on the community and my commitment to be accountable makes me the best candidate for the position.
What changes are you proposing? I am proposing changes to most importantly staffing and security levels for safety of staff, those incarcerated and the community. I am also proposing changes to former training models that include more reformative training models.
Is the Detention Center safe? How do you intend to improve conditions for inmates and workers? Currently, the Detention Center continues to be understaffed, unsafe, and with unreported assaults. Several years ago, I, along with other leaders at The Mecklenburg County Sheriff’s Office were tasked with implementing preventative and deterrent measures for the safety of both staff and inmates. Once implemented the outcomes were measured for success. They were successful. Removal of those once implemented preventative and deterrent measures has proven to be dangerous to both staff and inmates. To increase security and decrease staff and inmate assaults, I will again implement those policies and applications of duties proven to be both safe and successful. Once those proven successful preventative measures and deterrent factors are in place, and then placed in policies and procedures for staff protocol, they will then be continually monitored by leadership for successful outcomes or revisions.
Should 287(g) be reimplemented in Mecklenburg County? No
What policies do you intend to implement to reduce recidivism? Identifying and understanding the criminogenic needs of an individual is essential to providing both programming and resources needed to assist in reducing recidivism for that individual. I intend to implement a policy that consists of utilizing continued research, assessment tools, teams, and resources that would not only identify those specific criminogenic needs but also the specific programming and resources needed for that individual or population and not broad-based, long-termed programs specific to prisons as opposed to pretrial facilities..
What is your occupation? The Sheriff of Mecklenburg County
Why are you running? I am seeking re-election to be able to continue the work that led to MCSO to receiving three national accreditations. Which places them to an elite status among Sheriff Offices nationally. The community, agency and the residents deserves to have a trusted, progressive, passionate and a forward thinking leader with both true law enforcement and community engagement experience. A leader who’s not one dimensional and who will continue to brigade the gap between law enforcement and the community with robust community engagement programs. A leader who will be committed to stronger re-entry and mental health programs to create a safer community.
What changes are you proposing? Continue efforts in converting the mandated Sheriff Office into a full service agency with extensive training opportunities, that would allow this agency as well its employees to become a well rounded and a wider range of knowledge and skills necessary to succeed in serving the needs in our community; as well as building and strengthening relationships and partnerships with other law enforcement agencies . I’d also advocate the creation of a regional training facility.
Create a more robust Wellness program; concentrated efforts in providing leadership programs/ career training for the staff.
Provide more job readiness and employment opportunities for residents.
Is the Detention Center safe? How do you intend to improve conditions for inmates and workers? Since November 2nd 2021 the detention center has not had a violent assault. The newly formed TRU- Tactical Response Unit (which was created in response to the assaults) presence inside the detention center has clearly established control over the assaults and a greater rapport with the residents which has lead to a safer environment. We will continue to improve the conditions by encouraging our staff to engage in more de-escalation tactics training as well as the importance of adhering to policies and procedures which were created to keep everyone safe.
Should 287g be reimplemented in Mecklenburg County? NO it should not be reimplemented in Mecklenburg County. As leaders we have a moral obligation to ensure the safety of all of our residents. We live in a multicultural society and should move towards a more equitable model when it comes to immigration to build trust which would help deter crime. The 287g programs as it stands today is a federal program that is broken, abused, inconsistent and is not effective.
What policies do you intend to implement to reduce recidivism? We have created several new programs and polices to help reduce recidivism such as the Behavioral Health Unit, IN2ME, Peace 4 Poverty, (R)IGNITE, Highway Construction, Digital Literacy Program and In-house Job Fairs. Policies that would re-connect families and our residents as they prepare to re-enter the community. Polices that would provide incentives to encourage residents to participate in various programs and training which will better prepare them for re-entry. We will continue to partner with such groups and organizations like PRN, Charlotte Works, Charlotte Area Fund, The Next Great Fifth and Freedom Ministries to assist us with our returning citizens in re-establishing themselves in our community.
What is your occupation? 25yr Retired Deputy Sheriff and Senior Pastor of New Vision Ministry (Charlotte)
Why are you running? I was inspired to run for Sheriff after experiencing firsthand the lack of leadership while working under the current administration. I witnessed the lack of compassion that was shown to myself and my colleagues. Sadly, I witnessed too many of my colleagues result to early retirement and resignation. Due to retaliation and fear of losing their jobs for standing up for what was right. I knew in my heart that we could not bear 4 more years, so I then decided to take an early retirement Jan 1, 2022 and run for the office of Sheriff to make the change that is needed for the staff & Mecklenburg County citizens.
What changes are you proposing? My priority is to address the staffing shortage, expedite the Domestic Violence protective orders that are not being served in a timely manner, target Sex trafficking, by starting a Sex trafficking Division, as Charlotte is ranked #1 in the state of NC and provide better customer service to our citizens by processing gun permits and (CCW) carried concealed weapon permits in a timely manner. I would also like to have our Deputies more visible to all 7 cities of Mecklenburg County and even more so during high seasonal times.
Is the Detention Center safe? How do you intend to improve conditions for inmates and workers? Absolutely Not, the number of assaults and inmate deaths, and resignation of 400+ jail staff members within the past 4 years under this current administration is direct evidence and a result of our jail not being safe. My belief is that these conditions can and will change by implementing the proper training to our staff members. New hires will be mandated to partner with our veteran training officers to learn our policy and procedures. Building trustworthy relationships amongst line staff and leadership will also result in a positive environment for both staff and inmates.
Should 287(g) be reimplemented in Mecklenburg County? No, I feel as though individuals in custody should have a warrant/order for arrest or a visual charge. However, individuals are currently being held with a (PID) positive identification hold. These are individuals in whom refuse to provide their fingerprints and photograph. However, on certain charges it is not a requirement. This process is considered a hold and not a warrant.
What policies do you intend to implement to reduce recidivism? This will be a team effort and can be achieved by screening individuals considered to be high risk offenders and by collaborating with city council, county commissioners, and local community organizations to tailor and identify proper programs and resources for these individuals.
- What is your occupation?
- Why are you running?
- What changes are you proposing?
- What is your plan to handle the backlog of cases delayed by the pandemic?
- How should gun violence be addressed?
- What will be your approach in officer use-of-force cases?
What is your occupation? I am a criminal defense attorney who has practiced law in Charlotte for the past 20 years. I started out in the Mecklenburg County Public Defender’s office; I now run my own private practice while retaining court-appointed clients as well.
Why are you running? I’m running because I want to transform our criminal punishment system into a criminal justice system. Our current system is rooted in white supremacy and anti-black racism; it’s not broken, it’s working exactly the way it’s supposed to. Given this, it needs major reform. I am the candidate to bring that reform because I have worked my entire professional life in these courtrooms. I understand the challenges and the limitations of the District Attorney’s office, I understand what is needed, and I have the willingness and courage to explicitly confront the challenges of racial justice and inequities head on.
What changes are you proposing? My platform consists of four main pillars: 1) holding the police accountable when they break the law, 2) ending the mass incarceration policies at the DA’s office, 3) promoting racial and restorative justice, and 4) never seeking the death penalty. I have also pledged not to prosecute women or doctors for seeking or providing abortions in the event that the N.C. State Legislature passes a restrictive abortion ban similar to the bans we have seen in many other states. My specific policy proposals can all be found online at my campaign website.
What is your plan to handle the backlog of cases delayed by the pandemic? I would start by dismissing cases that have no reason to be pursued and don’t lead to an increase in overall public safety. A significant portion of the backlog contains cases that don’t threaten public safety and aren’t in the interest of justice.
How should gun violence be addressed? In order to reduce gun violence, we need to address its root causes. We need to look for creative ways working with community partners to focus on early intervention and non-governmental ways to reduce the number of unlawful guns on the street.
What will be your approach in officer use-of-force cases? I will create a unit that will investigate and prosecute officers who break the law, including but not limited to officer use of force cases. Anytime those prosecutors believe they have a valid case, they will be encouraged to aggressively prosecute and hold said officers accountable. The failure of the current DA’s office to hold police accountable is one of the greatest deficiencies of the current office.
What is your occupation? I have served as Mecklenburg County’s District Attorney since November 2017.
Why are you running? I am running to continue my work of service to victims and survivors of this community, to advance further my efforts to transform elements of this justice system that have exacerbated racial and economic disparities, and to rebuild, restore, and improve our justice system after two years of pandemic restrictions.
What changes are you proposing? If re-elected, I will renew my work to establish community and neighborhood-based justice programming, such as crime diversion and youth development. I will work with government and community partners to establish early mental health intervention in the court system. I will work with educators, parents, and administrators to implement solutions to eliminate the proliferation of guns in our schools. I will see the effort to bring a full-fledged Family Justice Center to Mecklenburg County—to meet the many trauma needs of victim-survivors and there families under one roof—brought from development to completion.
What is your plan to handle the backlog of cases delayed by the pandemic? Already, I have reoriented my office toward an increased emphasis on violent crime by redirecting trial and prosecutor resources away from simple drug possession crimes. We have directed those charged with such offenses toward the recovery resources that will keep them out of the criminal justice system. Likewise, we will look for more opportunities to direct those who have committed low-level offenses toward more immediate programming that confronts and changes behavior, instead waiting for court dates to come. Finally, by maximizing our use of limited trial time on priority cases and offenders, we will demonstrate our unwavering resolve to hold serious offenders accountable.
How should gun violence be addressed? Under my leadership, my office has redoubled our efforts to hold those who commit crimes with firearms accountable. We have created a unit that focuses specifically on armed robberies, shootings, and other cases involving firearms. We have advocated for those offenders with gun crime histories, who reoffend, to be held in pretrial custody without bond pending trial. We have and will continue to dedicate significant trial to the prosecution of gun offenses, including illegal possession of firearms by convicted felons. Such illegal possessed guns are the same stolen and unregistered firearms that regularly end up in our kids’ schools. We will collaborate with local law enforcement and our U.S. Attorney’s Office to build cases that will yield the most successful and impactful prosecutions.
What will be your approach in officer use-of-force cases? Where my office believes that an officer’s use-of-force has risen to the level of criminal activity, we will not hesitate to ask for an independent investigation of that act, just as I became the first Mecklenburg District Attorney to do for all officer-involved shootings. As with any criminal investigation (of an officer or a civilian), if it yields evidence that will enable my office to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, that case will be prosecuted. The State Constitution does not confer on District Attorneys the authority to administer their own investigation of law enforcement agencies or to set policies for them. But where I have evidence that a crime has been committed, my interest is in holding that person accountable as an offender, officer or not.
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