On Tuesday, March 26, the spokesman for the Guilford County Sheriff’s Department stated that the department wanted to reduce the rancor, politicization and heated rhetoric that’s been all too prevalent recently when it comes to matters regarding the Guilford County Sheriff’s Department.
Sheriff’s Department Public Information Officer Max Benbassat said that the current department and the new administration have a great deal of respect for former Guilford County Sheriff BJ Barnes and what he accomplished, is not attempting to undo the solid work Barnes and his team did over the last quarter of a century, and he added that department officials regret the way in which issues surrounding the department have become so heated and divisive.
Those comments – and the wish for a reset in which everyone in Guilford County comes together again for the good of the community – came after there was a strong negative response in local print and television media over a decision by new Guilford County Sheriff Danny Rogers to end an in-house DNA testing program and instead begin sending all samples to the state’s lab or to a private lab.
While that was the immediate reason for the comments from the department, Benbassat said there really is a broader issue at play. He said the department is interested in clearing up some misconceptions that have been out there and it also wants to tamp down all the heated emotions.
“We all respect what Sheriff Barnes did,” he said. “We’re trying to take that and improve upon it – we’re not trying to reinvent the wheel.”
Benbassat also said that – not just with the DNA testing issue, but with other decisions as well that have proven controversial – the new department is simply trying to find ways to increase public safety, keep costs low for taxpayers and provide efficient and effective community-based law enforcement that reduces crime and increases safety.
“We’re making these decisions in the best interest of public safety,” he said.
Benbassat also said that he, Rogers and others in the department regret the way things have become so heated and divisive in recent months and he added that the department is hoping to – and working to– smooth over those differences as well as allay any fears the public might have about the changes that are coming with a new Sheriff’s Department administration.
“We’re here to improve the office – we are not trying to undo everything that Sheriff Barnes did,” he said.
Benbassat added that the decision announced this week is a perfect example. He said that, after the department announced the plans to do away with the in-house DNA testing program that was established three years ago under Barnes, it was merely trying to improve procedures. He said the in-house program didn’t produce accredited results so those results were limited in value.
“We would rather have the results from a certified lab,” he said.
He added that the DNA testing machine was only used infrequently and that there were a lot of operational costs involved, including the salary of the officer who conducted the tests.
Guilford County Sheriff’s Department Captain George Moore said on Tuesday that the Sheriff’s Department can still get quick DNA test results whenever those results are called for.
“If we have something that we need, a specific case where we have to find out who it is within a couple of hours, we can get in the car, take the sample down there and have those results within four or five hours,” Moore said.