A year after the Buncombe County Detention Facility expanded its medication-assisted treatment program, Buncombe County Sheriff Quentin Miller says it’s time to put the successful service “in four-wheel drive.”
Addressing the Council of Independent Business Owners, Republican Sen. Chuck Edwards argued that Asheville was “bowing to the radicals that are asking for police departments to be defunded.” To ensure law and order, Edwards continued, he is developing legislation that would strip state funds from cities that cut law enforcement.
Democrats Amanda Edwards and Al Whitesides joined the board’s three Republicans in a 5-2 vote approving a proposal to hire three new detectives, which would match a $375,000 federal grant with $734,000 in county funds through fiscal year 2025.
Buncombe County has opened two drive-through testing sites, which will be open Wednesday, March 18, from 2-6 p.m. The first site is Biltmore Church at 35 Clayton Road in Arden, and the second is UNC Asheville at One University Heights.
U.S. Attorney Andrew Murray’s statement against two N.C. sheriffs, including Buncombe County Sheriff Quentin Miller comes as the U.S. Department of Justice sues jurisdictions in other states over related policies.
Most of those who spoke were in support of declaring Buncombe a “Second Amendment sanctuary” where officials would pledge not to enact or enforce laws that threaten the right to bear arms. The commissioners did not weigh in on the discussion following public comment.
Under language proposed by the N.C. Federation of Republican Men, Buncombe County would commit to using “all legal means necessary” to protect its citizens’ access to firearms. Additionally, county officials would agree to refrain from enforcing any “acts, laws, orders, mandates, rules or regulations that infringe on the right of the people to keep and bear arms.”
“As law enforcement, our mission is to protect the public and to seek to provide justice to victims of crime. Sheriff Miller’s current policy serves neither [purpose],” said Andrew Murray, U.S. attorney for the Western District of North Carolina, after Miller refused to honor an Immigration and Customs Enforcement detainer request. “It also breeds mistrust among law enforcement agencies and puts in danger the very communities it purports to protect.”
Board chair Brownie Newman, Vice Chair Jasmine Beach-Ferarra and member Amanda Edwards have placed a resolution endorsing the Sheriff’s Office’s use of MAT on the commission’s agenda for Tuesday, Aug. 20. The treatment is currently offered to the jail’s pregnant female inmates, but Buncombe officials hope to expand its availability to all incarcerated individuals.
At the Black Mountain Public Library on July 23, Sheriff Quentin Miller spoke to roughly 35 people in the first of five planned listening sessions meant to build relationships with community members around public safety. Topics included compliance with Immigration and Customs Enforcement detainers, school resource officers and transparency in the Sheriff’s Office.
Republican members of the board argued that their Democratic colleagues were out of place in issuing official letters against pending state HB 370, which would require Buncombe County Sheriff Quentin Miller and other sheriffs throughout North Carolina to comply with federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement detainer requests on penalty of removal from office.
The four Democratic board members — Chair Brownie Newman, Vice Chair Jasmine Beach-Ferrara and Commissioners Amanda Edwards and Al Whitesides — have all signed letters asking state officials to withhold their support from the proposal. In February, Democratic Buncombe County Sheriff Quentin Miller announced that his office would no longer honor ICE detainers.
James Baumstark, deputy chief of the Asheville Police Department, declared that all of the backlogged kits in his department’s possession had been reviewed — nearly 600 in all — with 414 already sent in for testing. Buncombe County Sheriff Quentin Miller also said that his office was evaluating and prioritizing a backlog of 201 untested kits.
The Buncombe County Board of Commissioners got its first look at the county’s fiscal year 2020 budget at a noon meeting originally announced to review the agenda for the board’s 5 p.m. regular meeting on April 16.
In an effort to address what he sees as needs in the department, which includes increasing the number of patrol officers, Buncombe County Sheriff Quentin Miller asked the board for additional funding to pay for 21 new positions and an increase in the number of vehicles that the county refreshes on an annual basis. The sheriff’s office anticipates that the requests would produce a total recurring cost of approximately $3.2 million per year.
The Buncombe County Sheriff’s Office will no longer honor requests from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement to hold detainees on ICE’s behalf without a valid criminal warrant.
Sixty years ago, Ernest Green and his classmates were just kids trying to graduate from high school.
Asheville has gotten whiter over the past two decades. The proportion of African-American residents in the city dropped from 17.6 percent in 2000 to 12.3 percent in 2016, a change city officials attribute to a combination of white influx and black exodus. For the people of color who remained in Asheville, 2018 proved a mixed bag.
As the Democratic Party retook control of the U.S. House of Representatives in the 2018 midterm elections, Buncombe Dems managed to hold onto a few key positions in local elections — perhaps most notably that of county sheriff. Politics also seeped into the Board of Commissioners race, where Republicans fell short in their bid to flip the party composition of the board.
Miller pledged to live up to his campaign promises of promoting the idea of a “community of we” and seeking ways to work together. “We must treat people with dignity and respect,” he emphasized. “We also request that you treat us with dignity and respect.