Lee Farnsworth

Lee Farnsworth

Lee Farnsworth

Age: 53
Residence: West Buncombe
Occupation: Operations director, Buncombe County Sheriff’s Department (until 6-1-06)
Education: UNCA (3 years); School of Police Executive Management, UNC-Chapel Hill (1992); more than 2,500 hours of law-enforcement training
Party: Democrat
Political experience: Buncombe County law-enforcement officer for 29 years (20 in management). First bid for political office.

1. Should the Sheriff’s Department be more transparent? If so, what steps would you take to achieve this?

Yes. Establish a public-relations position and employ a qualified individual. Provide the media with clear informational releases on issues on a daily basis. Provide open access by the media to the sheriff and division directors. Answer all media questions in a timely manner while complying with law concerning information.

2. What’s the current sheriff’s biggest accomplishment? His biggest failure?

Accomplishment: Establishing a School Resource Officer program well before this program was an industry-accepted standard.

Failure: The handling of the Mary Judd murder case.

3. Does the department enforce video-poker laws sufficiently? If not, what steps would you take to strengthen enforcement?

No. I would ensure all deputies are trained to enforce these laws and [be] vigilant of violations. Existing state law makes enforcement difficult, time-consuming and costly. I would be personally involved in the lobbying process currently under way by the N.C. Sheriffs’ Association to change the current video-poker laws.

4. What’s your position on the unannounced urban-warfare exercise the department hosted in downtown Asheville in 2004? Are you aware of plans for more such maneuvers?

I understand such training for our military may be necessary in very specific situations. If the federal government made a case for such training here, local government should have informed the public of the event in advance and secured the sites used. The federal government should have paid for security.

5. What does the Sheriff’s Department spend too much money on? Too little?

Too much: Employee turnover and the reserve-deputy program.

Too little: Drug enforcement, community relations, patrol equipment and forensics (crime-scene investigations).

6. Is the department’s handling of domestic-violence cases adequate? If not, how would you change it?

Deputies and dispatchers need to be better trained in response to domestic violence. Better relationships need to be built with community resources whose mission it is to assist in such cases. A follow-up system should be put in place to track domestic-violence cases by responding officers and specialized staff.

7. The department has more auxiliary deputies than any other municipality in the state. What are the pros and cons of this situation?

Reserves should be limited to two categories: individuals who volunteer service to the community; officers from other agencies who need to be deputies to facilitate their primary duties. Others who provide no service to the community should not be sworn: They are a drain financially and logistically on the department.

8. What are your top three crime-fighting priorities?

• Drugs: It’s not just a law-enforcement problem; relationships must be built with social services, public-health, mental-health and community organizations. Drugs/alcohol are related to 90 percent of all crimes.

• Build stronger working relationships with local, state and federal agencies.

• Build stronger, open relationships with the public.

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