Alamance County sheriff candidate Kelly White’s goal is to improve the relationships between law enforcement and the community. He said trust between these two groups has been tested lately, specifically during the protests in 2020 in downtown Graham. He said he wants to rebuild this trust.
“Relationships and trust work in tandem. You can’t have a relationship without trust, and you can’t have trust without a relationship,” White said.
White has more than 24 years of experience in law enforcement. Right now he is the Winston-Salem State University Deputy Chief of Police. White is running against incumbent Terry Johnson who has held this position for 20 years. Johnson has run unopposed in the last 3 elections.
White says he stands out from Johnson because he cares.
“I care about people and I care about Alamance County,” White said.
To White, reestablishing trust means lots of things. An example of this is hosting what he calls trust talks. These are meetings between community members and law enforcement.
“It is our job as law enforcement is to sit down and give them the opportunity to voice their concerns,” White said.
White said his hope is that this will bring mutual understanding. He said it will help people feel more comfortable around law enforcement, and teach them how to interact with law enforcement if they are stopped.
White said the talks will be mutually beneficial for law enforcement. Officers and deputies will learn how the community sees them and can take this opportunities to explain what they are thinking about when they stop someone.
“They didn’t get into law enforcement to take someone’s life,” White said.
He hopes misconceptions like this will be cleared up by quarterly trust talks. The talks will happen in rotating locations across the county. He plans to host one on Elon’s campus.
White also wants to improve mental health services for his constituents. He says he will do this by creating a crisis unit – a team of mental health professionals that accompany officers on calls. The unit will also include counselors that are available in detention centers.
Other goals include getting the sheriffs office and the detention center accredited.
“Accreditation breeds accountability,” White said. “We no longer get to say, what we're doing, We have to prove that we're doing the things that we say.”
White wants the Alamance County jail to be the safest detention center in the county. He plans on creating internships at the sheriff’s office that Elon University students will be encouraged to apply for. He also wants to Increase diversity in the staff at the sheriff's department.
He recognizes his plans require funding. White said he will consult the county commissioners and together they will find room in the budget for body cameras and the crisis unit as because those are his top priorities.
White said while there are many specific goals of his campaign, the common theme is building community.
“It’s not that the community needs to come to us at the Sheriff’s office. It’s our job to go to the community,” White said.