Buncombe sheriff launches listening sessions in Black Mountain

Quentin Miller at the Black Mountain Public Library
LONG EAR OF THE LAW: Buncombe County Sheriff Quentin Miller responds to audience questions during a July 23 listening session at the Black Mountain Public Library. Photo by Daniel Walton

True to his campaign slogan, “Community of We,” Buncombe County Sheriff Quentin Miller is out on patrol to hear from county residents. At the Black Mountain Public Library on July 23, the county’s top law enforcement official spoke to roughly 35 people in the first of five planned listening sessions meant to build relationships with community members around public safety.

“I’m not the Republican sheriff, I’m not the Democratic sheriff, I’m the sheriff of Buncombe County,” Miller said. “I’m their sheriff. The whole community knows that they can come to the sheriff’s office, bring their issues and concerns and see how we’ll work to address them.”

Right off the bat, Miller received a question about his position on voluntary Immigration and Customs Enforcement detainers. HB 370, currently under consideration by the N.C. General Assembly, would force sheriffs to hold, at ICE’s request, people who would otherwise be released for up to 48 hours. His office currently does not honor those requests, saying they do not follow a proper judicial process for detention.

As several other county residents asked about ICE and HB 370, Miller suggested that the bill was racially motivated; all seven of the state’s recently elected black sheriffs have come out against ICE detainers. “It’s very interesting to me that the previous sheriff [Van Duncan, who is white],

Quentin Miller with Avril Pinder
BUDDY SYSTEM: Buncombe County Manager Avril Pinder, right, says Sheriff Quentin Miller’s transparency efforts support the county’s overall goal of restoring trust in government. Photo by Daniel Walton

he didn’t support the 287(g),” he said, referencing another program by which local law enforcement can voluntarily cooperate with ICE. “I personally feel that this is an attack on African American sheriffs, because before now, no one has ever said anything.”

Miller did note that his office would comply with ICE detainers that had been signed by judicial officials. After the meeting, he also confirmed to Xpress that, if HB 370 becomes law, his office will follow its requirements.

Another resident asked about the county’s approach to its 28 school resource officers. Miller, who himself served as an SRO for the Asheville Police Department and at one point supervised the police’s in-school activity, said his office would step up its efforts for interacting with students beginning the next school year.

SROs should develop school-specific projects, take responsibility for public safety issues such as burned-out lights and increase efforts to teach students ways to resist gangs, Miller explained. “They are now the sheriff of their school,” he said. “I want my SROs to own their particular schools.”

Additionally, Miller highlighted his office’s transparency initiatives. The Buncombe County Detention Center will soon release an informational dashboard on bail bond amounts, which he said show racial disparities. And he invited residents to register for the fall Citizen’s Academy, which begins on Monday, Sept. 16.

County Manager Avril Pinder, speaking after Miller finished taking questions, praised the sheriff and said his approach aligns with the county’s broader efforts to restore trust in government. “He calls it ‘Community of We,’ and I call it ‘One Buncombe.’ It doesn’t matter where you put your head at night or where you go to work; we all pay taxes to the same authority,” she said. “I want to make sure that we’re delivering on our promise to spend our money well and wisely.”

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About Daniel Walton
Daniel Walton is the Green Scene editor and a reporter for Mountain Xpress. His work has previously appeared in Capital at Play, Edible Asheville, and the Citizen-Times, among other area publications. Follow me @DanielWWalton

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