At the Jan. 15 detention hearing for former Sheriff Bobby Medford, Assistant U.S. Attorney Richard Edwards said the ongoing investigation into extortion and corruption charges includes current deputies and law enforcement officers. However, Sheriff Van Duncan told Xpress that he doesn’t believe any deputies still serving in the Buncombe County Sheriff’s Office are involved.
“My understanding comes from the federal government verbatim — they’ve said that there isn’t anybody currently in this office that’s a target in the corruption investigations, and I believe that,” Duncan said.
He added that “investigations are fluid things, but if they [federal investigators] come to us with evidence that someone still employed here was involved in this, we will take immediate action. We have definitely opened our doors and helped to facilitate this investigation and we will continue to do so.”
Edwards, who referred to Medford as “the head of the snake” of a large criminal operation during the hearing, also noted that as sheriff, Medford had given out special deputy badges to more than 400 people, including some illegal video-poker operators. These loyalists were known as “Medford’s Army,” said Edwards, and, “After losing re-election, all the records on the special deputies — who they were, how many there were — were all shredded,” he noted, adding that Duncan has since changed the design of the special deputy badge and the criteria for special deputies.
Duncan confirmed that the records on Medford’s special deputies had been destroyed and new badges had been issued to current reserve deputies. He added that reserve deputies are now required to have law enforcement training and fulfill a set number of hours each month.
“We felt very strongly that some of those badges had been given to people who had no business having them in the past,” Duncan said. “Now they’re only in the hands of sworn law enforcement officers.”
The Sheriff’s Office confirmed today that there are currently 528 reserve deputies, though about 140 of those are “cross-sworn officers” from other agencies such as the Asheville and Woodfin Police Departments. That leaves the number of remaining reserve deputies just slightly less than during Medford’s tenure.
—David Forbes, staff writer