Sheriff candidates face off in first debate

Tim Bullard, Staff Writer

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The four candidates running for the office of Yadkin County Sheriff shared a stage last week and offered their qualifications for the seat during a forum held at the GOP headquarters in Yadkinville.
The four candidates for the seat are Michael Cain, Mitchell Davis, Doug Groce, and Don Johnson. All are Republicans.
Current Yadkin County Sheriff Michael Cain was the first of the candidates for the office to speak.

Michael Cains opening remarks
Ive been the sheriff here since 1998, he said.
I was born and raised right here in Yadkin County. I was in law enforcement years before I became sheriff. This is my wife Betty. Weve been married 26 years. Ive got one daughter. I have two grandchildren, he said. I live in the Fall Creek area of Yadkin County. Im just privileged and honored to be sheriff, you know. Thats pretty much about what I am about.
Doug Groces remarks
Im 56 years old. I spent 36 years with Duke Power Company, he said.
I worked for Sheriff Cain for four years. I grew up in Hamptonville where Im still living. I guess Im going to stay there I hope. Ive got a lot of friends in the county. I appreciate the people. I appreciate the county I live in.
Im running for sheriff for a specific reason. I would like to serve the citizens of Yadkin County. Thats about all Ive ever done all my adult life. There are a few things that I would like to look into. Id like to look into the drug problem. Everyone in here would agree that it is a major issue. The drug problem leads to a lot of the (breaking and enterings), thefts, children having problems at home, it all ties in together.
If elected, Id like to be there. Id like you to know Ill have an open door. Id like to be available to you when you need me. I might have to sleep some. But Id like to be there. Id also like to develop a real strong community involvement. I think thats the key to getting people to help do things.
They see things that officers cant see every day due to the things they are doing. If you can get some community involvement, I think its a very important thing, he said.
Were a Republican party. I am a Republican. I have been forever. If I dont win this office, and I am running for this office of Sheriff, Im not running against any of these guys, if something happens and I do not, I will support the winner.
Mitchell Davis opening remarks
Ive been the magistrate for the past 23 years as most of you know. Im from Surry County originally. I started in law enforcement over in Surry County in 1967 under Sheriff Jim Taylor. I graduated from Pilot Mountain High School in 1961 before a lot of you were born.
I also graduated from Surry Community College with a two-year degree in law enforcement. I was privileged to hold a law enforcement certification for 40 years until our illustrious judge here in this district saw fit to take my certification because it was a conflict of interest, or so he said.
I used that certification for 20 years, he said. I have kept that certification as a non-gun carrying deputy, said Davis, who moved here in 1974.
I was the first drug officer that Yadkin County had. I know a little bit about how to do drug cases, and I know a little bit about how to do breaking and entering cases, said Davis. I think I can handle the job, but I cant handle the job if I dont get elected. If I dont get elected, Ill still be right here in Yadkin County. I married a girl from Yadkin County, and I intend on staying here.
I have no animosity against anybody. If I dont get elected, Ill support whoever is running for sheriff on the Republican ticket, said Davis.
Don Johnsons opening remarks
I used to be a police officer in Statesville. I was in the U.S. Army for six years and worked for the N.C. Department of Corrections for a year. For the last 14 years Ive worked here in Yadkin County. He has operated a maintenance business since then.
Law enforcement takes a lot of you time. My children are now teenagers, and now they are about to start driving, so they are able to take care of themselves a little bit better. My sons an Eagle Scout with Yadkinville United Methodist Church.
That is where his daughter is a Girl Scout also.
I was a field training officer, he said. I was the first member of a drug interdiction task force we started in Statesville. All we wore was T-shirts that said police on it. Our job was to bust every street drug dealer in the city of Statesville. Over a one-year period we made over 1,000 arrests.
A lot of our arrests led to other counties. We went into Wilkes County, Catawba County, Yadkin County. A lot of the drugs coming into Statesville were coming from some of the smaller counties. Its easier to operate in smaller counties. They have smaller departments. Theres less manpower on the streets.
So what I want to see in this county is with the sheriffs department being smaller is to get more involved with the fire departments in each community. We have fire chiefs. We can work with them in these communities to see what kind of problems we are having in the communities. I want to see a quarterly meeting with the fire chiefs, police chiefs and the sheriffs department.
We want to sit down and working with our communities a lot stronger. We know we have drug problems in the county. We also have gang problems. If you dont jump on it hard and fast, it will keep on growing. Sheriff Cains run license checks. Hes done everything a sheriff is supposed to do. When he came into office, he worked hard and did his job. I have no animosity against Sheriff Cain.
Hes a fine man. I just think its time to move forward a little further along. Im just younger and more energetic now. Im not saying youre old either.
I am an old man, Cain replied to laughter.
Johnson said he would not come in with big changes, comparing it to the military with everybody being given a chance.
That just the way my beliefs are, he said. Im just strong for the men. Come May 4, youre going to have to make a choice. Its just Republicans running. We need everybody out May 4 and make decisions.
Sheriff candidates covered many topics during their debate last week.
Cain commented on the proposal that would prohibit felons for running for office, including sheriff.
I was part of the vote, he said. The N.C. Sheriffs Association passed the vote. Some deputies cannot work if they have misdemeanors, Cain added.
So being the chief law enforcement officer, why should we be able to do it? he asked. Were not saying we want to deny a county the right to vote for who they want to. We as the association are saying that we want the Legislature to pass a law that prohibits a felon from running for any elected office.
If a county wants to elect a felon, it could, he said, but in July if a law is changed, the association would not allow a member to be a member if he or she is a felon. You have to make an amendment to the Constitution, he reminded. There are six counties in North Carolina where there are convicted felons running in, according to Cain.
A question dealt with interagency relationships.
Groce said, If you dont have a sharing of information between them, somebody is spinning their wheels doing double duty.
Davis pointed to one incident in which department did not work together when an officer was killed in Jonesville, and others agreed.
Thats a case thats never been solved, Davis added. Thats because there was no cooperation at the time that happened. Thats exactly why that wasnt solved. There has to be cooperation with the N.C. State Bureau of Investigation, he added.
Youve got to have that lab to do your lab work, Davis said. If you dont, youre hurting, buddy. Youve got to have that SBI plus the FBI. They can make it for a while, but when it comes to a big case, you are gone.
Johnson said there should be mutual aid agreements with strengthening. If you have one car on the road in East Bend and one deputy, sometimes youre going to have to call Boonville if you need backups because you never know what kind of situation youre going to run into. Ive been in firefights. Ive had knives pulled on me. Ive had guns pulled on me.
Iredell County had extensive coverage at one time, Johnson said, within jurisdictions. The county would come in and help the city officers, he said. Weve got to have meetings. Everybody knows that the patrol officers work together. They are out here at night when all the supervisors have gone home. They are out here working with the banks and businesses and bad checks.
They are calling each other and meeting. They hear that a city officer has pulled someone over, hes by himself, a deputy is usually rolling toward that officer just to be in the general vicinity. Patrol officers work closer together most of the time than the supervisors do. Supervisors have so much going on, they dont think about the other supervisors, Johnson said.
Cain said the biggest issue that faces his department right now is the budget.
Its always cutting the budget. Lets take the jail for example, he said. You give it to the county manager and he cuts it all he wants. Then you meet the commissioners and they take their cuts.
So what I ask for and what I get is always three different things. The biggest problem for the sheriffs department now is you dont have money for manpower. Were in pretty good shape on equipment, Cain said. Still money is the biggest single issue. You can solve a lot of problems if you have the cash to do it with.
There isnt anything I like better than to have six or eight guys to do nothing but work drugs. But physically thats not possible. We dont have the manpower to do that with, Cain added. Id like to have a drug task force team. Youve got four deputies working nighttime. Youve got three daytime. Youve got your school resource deputy in the schools. Youve got court transport.
We transport all the time. Those five people are tied up. Youve got to have deputies inside all those courtrooms, Cain said, adding there are up to five courtrooms plus mediation areas. You just cant draw from homeowners but so much. Ive never busted a budget. Ive always turned back in money.
You sacrifice a lot in order to turn the money back in, Cain said. A few years back we have had to lay deputies off. We got them back. It doesnt matter if I get 1,000 calls a week or one call, we have to answer that call.
If he had a genie in a bottle, that would make it work, Cain said. They can take money back if they want to, and that has happened before too, Cain said, adding you cant pull a gun on them. I just had to return $20,000 last week. Were in the budget process now. Its all about money.
Every candidate could do the same thing he is doing, he said, adding, Im on the inside looking out so I know exactly what Im talking about. Getting new personnel in this county is impossible.
Groce said the economy is bad.
Weve lost a lot of jobs, so the tax base is not there, Groce said. Its got to be pretty tough to keep the quality of people that are dedicated. I think that a lot of these guys are willing to hang through, but at some point in time, you kind of hope were going to develop some kind of industry in here. The county commissioners are a big part of that.
Davis said the economy has been down for a good while. Its probably going to get even worse, I believe, he said. When he asked how many years the country has to go now, someone said three to laughter.
He criticized House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, adding he heard on the radio that Washington would pass the health care bill no matter what.
When they start talking like that, you better watch out, said Mitchell. Somethings going to happen, and it wont be pretty. When the economy gets down, what youve got to do is buckle up, and weve got to buckle up.
He suggested walking prisoners from the jail to the courthouse instead of driving them.
That would save a little bit of fuel. Maybe they will get tired of walking up to the courthouse. Maybe Im wrong, but Ive seen it done, Davis said. Thats one way of saving money. He said the jail should stay where it is now.
Thats just me, he said. I think the jail needs to be down here and walk the prisoners to the jail. I think that would save money. I may be wrong.
Where a prisoner is transported out of the county has a lot of impact on costs, he added.
There is liability involved, Cain said.
On drugs Cain said grants have to be matched, and sometimes local funds are not available.
Its always a fight when it comes to getting money. You can never explain yourself good enough to everybody because they dont understand what we do. They dont understand what a sheriffs office does, Cain said. Thats what their job is. Its like you give me your check, and Im going to pay your bills the way I want to pay them. Ive tried sweet talking. Ive tried hollering. Ive tried screaming, and Ive tried crying. It dont work. Its all down to money.
Groce turned to the drug crisis and how the agency can get people to help without putting their lives or their families in jeopardy.
Some of these guys are crazy, said Groce. They will shoot you. They will shoot at you. Theyll do all sorts of crazy stuffweve got to take care of home first. Well let New York take care of New York.
Johnson said, Youve got to be out there in the field with them. Not every day. Youve got to show up every now and then just to let them know you still know whats going on out there. It gives them encouragement to do a better job.
You cant clean up all the drugs, but you can make an effort, Johnson said. There are budget restraints. Everybody knows that. Theres ways around budget restraints. The economys killing us. We are struggling, too. But its all about productivity. Thats whats got to happen out there. Drug dealers dont like to have harassment. All theyve got to do is ride through those neighorbhoods, and ride them hard.
You stop the cars. You know where the drugs are. They decide to move down the street, Johnson said. You just make the effort. And the drugs will start pushing out.
Small department attract the dealers and drugs, Johnson said.
Theres not an easy solution to it, interjected Davis. The man who runs the bank, and Im not saying which bank, because it could be any bank, the banker is the man making the money.
Mitchell then added. Anybody could be making money off of drugs because drugs are everywhere, and they are everywhere in this county, state and the world. There is money to be made everywhere on drugs. There is not easy solution to drugs. I dont care what anybody says.
You have to keep plugging and trying different things, Davis said. The gang problem that is here, and its in all the towns, the next drug problem is tied to the gang problem. Its not just here in Yadkin County. They are coming to the smaller counties so they can get on the back streets and get in a barn or building and fix the cars and put the drugs in the cars and put the money in the cars, and move it. But its happening here.
Davis said that everyone knows who the kingpins are.
Youve got the use the smaller people to get to the larger people. You cant start on the large people, he said. I think youve got to start the bottom and work your way up. I may be wrong, but I dont think so. The big people are here. Theyve been here for years and years. They are not selling to anybody because they have too many lieutenants out here who know whats going on. Thats the way it is in Yadkin County. Most of the people sitting in here know who the big people are.
There were a lot of nods.
You cant get to them because you cant get the little people to do the talking, said Davis.
Cain talked about the gang issue.
What information and intel we have, youre talking about making drug busts, something people need to understand is that not every drug arrest is public record. If you are dealing with the federal government, number one, I, as the sheriff, cant go out and start talking about what youre doing.Weve had several major drug arrests with right much weight and right much money that I cant give specifics on it. Are those guys tied in with the Mexican mafia or the 13s? They are not like your Hells Angels. They dont wear their colors. They dont have a clubhouse.
They may act like gangbanger. Im not saying that we dont have some gang members or gang activity. Its not an organized type thing like youd see in Los Angeles, Cain said. Im sure we have some wannabes and some people who want to be members. We make drug arrests every single say.
If you cannot buy $30,000 worth of drugs, criminals like this will not deal with you, according to Cain.
They pretty much think youre poor, Cain said. Its hard to get a little guy who knows the big man. Hes got one person he touches. They are very organized. Its always been organized. Even back then bootlegging was organized.
You can catch the big man if youve got enough connections and enough money to get him, but the little fellows, theyre most of the time going to take you to another little fellow.
Cain said he gets threats every day.
Discussion turned to prescription drug abuse, which Cain said is a threat, especially when someone dies and no one disposes of the drugs in the proper way. His department can take care of such drugs, he added. Residents should not throw unused pills down the drain or toilet because they get into the water supply.
Prescription drugs have become a big problem, Cain said. The department has Operation Drug Drop.
Kids feel like prescription drugs are safe drugs. They feel like theyre not illegal. They dont know you can be charged with that, he added.
Cain said Groces house was broken into once, and the suspect was looking for medicines.
These people get hooked on this Oxycotin, Vicodin. Doctors will write this stuff out. You can get on the Internet and see what symptoms there are, he said. They doctor-shop all the time. Nine out of 10 will write you a prescription.

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