In the wake of mass firings at the Guilford County Sheriff’s Department by Sheriff-elect Danny Rogers, Guilford County commissioners are expressing their reactions.
Rogers, who is a Democrat, was elected sheriff over six-term Republican Sheriff BJ Barnes in the Tuesday, Nov. 6 election. The relationship between the sheriff and the board of commissioners, that has a Republican majority, is important because the board sets the funding for the Sheriff’s Department.
Chairman of the Guilford County Board of Commissioners Alan Branson said that Rogers’ move to fire a slew of officers, including some very high ranking and experienced ones, is a major cause of concern. Branson said he learned of the move by reading the Rhino Times on Tuesday, Nov. 27 and he immediately forwarded the article to other commissioners.
“I think it’s scary times,” Branson said. “I don’t know where the Sheriff’s Office is headed. This is very scary, very troubling.”
Branson said one major concern is that the Sheriff’s Department has had trouble hiring and keeping good officers – even prior to the current turmoil in the department – so to clean out 27 or more employees could lead to a lack of adequate staff.
Branson also said the way it was done was unprofessional. He said he wished that those who were close to retirement age would have been given time to serve for a few additional months until they could qualify full retirement benefits.
At least with regard those who were fired this week, that does not appear to be the case.
Guilford County Commissioner Alan Perdue, who was the director of Guilford County Emergency Services before retiring and being elected county commissioner, also questioned the move.
“I understand wanting to have your own team,” Perdue said, “but I’m concerned with the fact that you have employees who have gotten promoted for doing a good job and now they are penalized.”
Perdue said he knows from running a county department charged with public safety that having experienced staff is essential, so it’s concerning to him, he said, that Rogers has gotten rid of much of that experience.
“Experience is critical,” Perdue said. “You can go through training but training doesn’t replace experience. On-the-job training is very valuable in public safety.”
According to Perdue, those who have been in public safety a long time develop a “situational awareness” that helps them do their job well.
Perdue teaches leadership classes around the country and he said one thing he stresses is that leaders should “surround themselves with talent.”
Rogers told the Rhino Times this week that keeping the officers who were loyal to Barnes would have invariably meant that they would try to undermine him.
Commissioner Skip Alston, who, like Rogers, is a Democrat, said he agrees with Rogers and he defended Roger’s decision to fire the employees.
“I think it is a good thing,” Alston said, “and not only is it a good thing, but it’s also a necessary thing. There is a trust factor there. The sheriff has to have trust in the people who work for him.”
Alston also said he isn’t concerned about the department’s ability to function with the losses. He said that even if some higher ranked officers are removed, the workers who serve under them will continue to do their jobs.
“If you remove the head, the body remains,” Alston said.