Buncombe County Sheriff Quentin MIller earned his first Democratic nomination in a five-way 2018 primary with over half of all votes cast. Now the incumbent, he faces just one primary challenger: David Hurley.
As reported last year by Asheville Watchdog, Hurley significantly differs from the Democratic party line in embracing the “constitutional sheriff” movement. Under this interpretation, promoted by the Constitutional Sheriffs and Peace Officers Association but regarded as incorrect by mainstream legal scholars, sheriffs have constitutional authority to determine which laws should be enforced within their jurisdiction.
Hurley was also part of a group that protested during meetings of the Buncombe County Board of Education last year over critical race theory and student mask mandates. An affidavit filed by the protesters notes that Hurley had asked Miller to countermand the school board’s restrictions on public comment at those meetings based on the sheriff’s constitutional authority, which Miller did not do.
The name of each candidate is linked to their responses in the post:
Previous candidacy or offices held: Did not answer.
Key endorsements: Did not answer.
Amount of money raised: avl.mx/bgy
Top three donors: N/A.
What unique perspective do you bring to the office of sheriff? Unlike many who hold the position of sheriff, I do not have a career law enforcement background. I have a strong combination of military, police, high-risk security and business experience. I think this is an advantage over other candidates because I’m not approaching this position from the perspective of a law enforcer. Instead, I’m approaching it from a constitutional problem-solver perspective. I’ve been in law enforcement long enough to know that things could be done better.
What do you consider the biggest challenge currently facing the Sheriff’s Office, and how would you address it? The biggest challenge facing the Sheriff’s Office today is the lack of leadership and approach to policing. Like many law enforcement agencies, BCSO is engaged primarily in reactive policing, not proactive, community-oriented policing. This approach reduces community relations, doesn’t prevent crime and gets increasingly costly over time. I would review current policies and start turning the office into a community-oriented office with the purpose of increasing positive engagement with the community and preventing crime, particularly property theft and drug distribution.
What specific opportunities for collaboration do you see with other public safety agencies, including the Asheville Police Department and the local court system? I would move to absorb the Asheville police into the ranks of the Sheriff’s Office. Besides the obvious benefit of being able to serve the public’s needs, this would result in better transparency, community engagement and accountability. I would also work closely with the district attorney to ensure cases are handled constitutionally. We will not enforce “crimes” that do not infringe on the rights of others (i.e., recreational marijuana use, loitering in public areas, panhandling).
If you could choose any additional professional development training for the Sheriff’s Office and its deputies, what would it be? As sheriff, I will implement community-oriented communications training and qualifications standards, fitness training and qualifications standards, and constitutional training and testing before field assignment. I would also discontinue Taser and baton training while increasing training in empty-hand techniques. The overuse of police Tasers has led to unnecessary deaths and serious bodily injury during confrontations. If done correctly, training can mitigate a lot of situations from happening in the first place and deescalate situations so less-than-lethal tools are not needed.
Occupation: Sheriff of Buncombe County
Previous candidacy or offices held: Sheriff from 2018 to present
Key endorsements: All six Democratic Buncombe County commissioners, state Sen. Julie Mayfield, former state Sen. Terry Van Duyn, Gene Bell and former Buncombe County Commissioner and state Rep. Patsy Keever
Amount of money raised: $29,536.81 as of 3/29/22
Top three donors: Eddie Harwood, Terry Van Duyn, Moe Davis for Congress (campaign committee)
What unique perspective do you bring to the office of sheriff? Being born and raised in Asheville, I consider myself a community member, and that is a big part of what I bring to the role of sheriff. Every day I see friends, old classmates or community members who I can talk to and ask what is going on in our community. With my experience the last three years as sheriff, I bring knowledge of budgets, staffing and the challenges that Buncombe County is facing with the opioid epidemic.
What do you consider the biggest challenge currently facing the Sheriff’s Office, and how would you address it? I will tell you that fentanyl and the opioid epidemic is our greatest challenge. We are now seeing more than 100 individuals die from overdoses each year in Buncombe County, with the numbers increasing during the last 18 months. Most of these deaths are from fentanyl, which can be 50 times as strong as heroin. I am proud of our medication-assisted treatment program in the jail that began under my watch to help combat this crisis.
What specific opportunities for collaboration do you see with other public safety agencies, including the Asheville Police Department and the local court system? The Post-Overdose Response Team program is a great example of how law enforcement is partnering with other agencies to address the opioid epidemic. Both the Sheriff’s Office and Asheville Police Department work with this new and innovative program that is run through Buncombe County Emergency Medical Services. Law enforcement does not have all the answers on how to address issues like addiction or mental health, and we need to find new ways to tackle these issues together.
If you could choose any additional professional development training for the Sheriff’s Office and its deputies, what would it be? Our staff have many different specialities depending on their role, but if I had to generalize across our staff, it would be Crisis Intervention Training. We are working to get all our deputies and detention officers certified. This training program teaches officers and first responders about different types of mental health diagnoses and medications, discusses the impact of stigma on individuals living with mental health issues and teaches deescalation skills specific to this population.