Dave Griffith Interview 2014


March 11, 2014
Just the other day, I posted an old but well-read 2010
article on the last Forsyth County Sheriff’s race.  It didn’t take long to figure out that not much has changed in
the sheriff’s office since that time. 
Four years later, it’s the same problems, same debate and the same main
contenders, throw in a spoiler or two. 
Dave Griffith Begins 2014 Run for Forsyth County Sheriff

It motivated me to meet with Dave Griffith, 2014 Forsyth
County Sheriff’s candidate, for his take on the past, present, and future of
our Sheriff’s office.  He was happy
to accommodate my request for an interview and the old article laid the
groundwork for our meeting.  During a
warm conversation punctuated with many moments of serious thought and several
cups of coffee, it became clear that Dave Griffith has a vision for our
county.  It is a vision defined by a
plan
that quietly unfolded itself in the course of our conversation. 

Question:    In 2010,
the Forsyth County Sheriff’s Office (FCSO) organizational chart did not include
a gang unit and the sheriff at the time stated that gangs were not a problem in
our county.  Both 2010 and current FBI
crime statistics suggest that violent crime in our county has gone down.   However, according to the 2013 Crime
Commission Data, there are more than 40 established gangs each in Guilford and
Forsyth counties.  Also, many citizens
do not perceive a drop in crime but exactly the opposite.  Who is telling the truth and can you give us
a realistic appraisal of the situation in Forsyth County (FC)?
Griffith:  Yes, gangs
are a problem in Forsyth County.  In
2010, FCSO did not have an ongoing gang task force and to my knowledge no
relationship with any other gang related agencies such as the NC Gang
Investigators Association.  It is 2014
and the FCSO appears to have made no changes, even though our 2010
campaign made clear that 46% of Forsyth County citizens were unhappy with the
sheriff’s lack of focus on gangs.
One of the reasons Forsyth County cannot and will not get a handle on
gang crime is because of the FCSO refusal to cooperate with other agencies on
the federal, state, and local level. 
Their reputation among other agencies is one of non-cooperation and a
“keep your distance” attitude.  Our problem with gangs cannot be addressed
without multi-agency cooperation.
Those of us in the law enforcement family must come together
to protect the citizens of Forsyth County. 
We are outgunned and out financed by the criminal element.  
Question:  What will
you do, if elected sheriff, to combat gangs in FC.
Griffith:  If elected
sheriff, I will implement a new multi-focal plan to address gangs, drugs, and
crime.  It will start with the complete
reorganization of FSCO, a redeployment of country resources, and a
collaborative effort
to readdress crime in our community.  While our current Sheriff has a reactive
management style, I intend to respond proactively to the elements
threatening the security and peace of the county. 
My immediate action against gangs in our community will
begin with establishing a collaborative and cooperative relationship with
other federal, state, and local agencies. 
FSCO will work with these agencies as a cohesive unit, not only sharing
resources but also coordinating our efforts towards reducing crime, drug
activity, and gangs.  This will make
Forsyth County a safer place to live.  I
call it working together, rather than working at odds.  Communication is the key.
Question: Citizens complain that they can’t get an audience
with the current sheriff.  How will your
administration be different?
Griffith:  I plan to
carry communication to the next level. 
Unlike the current sheriff, I will make myself available to all
citizens. Not only do I work for the citizens of Forsyth County, I am a part of
this community.  Open Communication with
my employers will improve my job performance and that of my department.
An open door policy is just the start.  It is my intention to hold town hall
meetings in different FC communities once a quarter.  The purpose:  to open
communication between FCSO and the community’s needs.  This will give citizens the opportunity to share their concerns
while sharing with me information that I otherwise would not have.
I also have plans to organize a Sheriff’s Advisory
Committee.  This committee will consist
of business leaders, education professionals, civic leaders, elected officials,
and FC citizens.  Monthly committee
meetings will serve essentially the same function as the town hall meetings but
will focus more on group needs.  Who
better than educators know school needs or who better than business leaders
know corporate needs. 
What I have described is a multi-level focus on improved
communication as part of daily operations. 
I have been forging communication within the LEO community for years and
look forward to Forsyth County collaboration between the sheriff’s department,
other law enforcement agencies, individual citizens, and community groups.  It is essential that we make Forsyth County
as uncomfortable as possible for the criminal element. 
Question:  What do
you mean by “you have been forging communication…for years?”
Griffith:  My entire
life experience up until this point has culminated in an extraordinary network
of accumulated contacts within the LEO community.  I intend to use my 45 years of experience and agency contacts as
an asset for Forsyth County. 
Question:  Earlier
you mentioned opening communication with your employers as important to your
success.  What did you mean by “your employers?”
Griffith:  My
employers are the citizens of Forsyth County. 
I am hired by the citizens and fired by the citizens.  That is what this interview is about.  I am applying for the job of Forsyth County
Sheriff.  Our current sheriff seems to
have forgotten he works for the citizens of Forsyth County.  Rather than operate as the public servant
that he is, he has used the office of sheriff as his own personal
monarchy.  The office of Sheriff belongs
to the people and I intend to give it back to them. 
Question:  The 2010
election brought to light a lack of FCSO attention to Sex offenders in Forsyth
County.    At that time, the sex offender unit was staffed
with one full time investigator and two part time deputies.  The sheriff’s current organization chart
does not appear to have changed. 
Citizens were upset about the lack of attention to these crimes in
2010.  Has the situation improved during
the last four years?
Griffith: The situation has not improved.  It has declined.  Not only has the incumbent refused to increase his attention to
sex offenders in
Forsyth County, he has purposefully declined to participate in an aggressive
plan to coordinate a sex offender
task force.  A plan was put together
that would have provided a 15 member team at no cost to FCSO.  D.A. Jim Oneil, WSPD Chief Scott Cunningham
and the U.S. Marshal Service approved this plan.  Our sheriff, however, refused to cooperate and chose to continue
monitoring sex offenders
with his one full time and 2 part-time staff. 
In the process, he put Forsyth County children at risk. 

Just this week, a local home was broken into and a
5-year-old child was raped.  When this
animal is caught and prosecuted, Forsyth County needs a plan in place to
prevent this crime from re-occurring. 
Our current incumbent does not have a plan yet but has had three terms
to address it.  If history is any
indication, he will not address it in his fourth term either.  I intend to make it a priority.

Question:  If you had
to pick one, what is the greatest challenge facing Forsyth County law
enforcement in 2014?
Griffith:  The drug
problem in this county.  Heroin use
along with new synthetic drugs has exploded. 
Within the last year, three former student of West Forsyth High School
died from overdoses of heroin.  The
media is silent.  Drugs are killing our
kids.  Nobody is doing anything about
it.  Meanwhile, FCSO is submitting crime
numbers to the FBI suggesting Forsyth County crime is going down.  It is all a joke.
Question:  If the FBI
statistics show crime is dropping in Forsyth County, why do you suggest the
sheriff’s department claim of reduced crime is incorrect?
Griffith:  The FBI
can only publish numbers submitted by the sheriff’s department and other
agencies.  My close ties to the law
enforcement community indicate the reality does not match the numbers.  Sheriff’s Officers have complained
that the methodology behind FCSO crime reports has been changed.  For example, in some circumstances, what was
once reported as a felony B&E can be reported as misdemeanor vandalism
under certain circumstances.  This
results in under-reporting of serious crimes while “cooking the books,” so to
speak.  These numbers are submitted to
the FBI and their official stats then reflect a false reduction in crime.
If I am elected sheriff, I will report crimes as they
are.  I will correct the crime report
protocol and a felony will be a felony. 
I will not manipulate reports to make me or my office look better nor attempt to influence
statistical reports by outside agencies. 
When I am Sheriff, our statistics will be a true and accurate reporting
rather than a function of political expediency.
Question:  Since 2010
the incumbent has CALEA certified the FCSO. 
Is it your intention to keep our CALEA certification active? 
Griffith:  If CALEA
certification is good for the citizens of Forsyth County, I will keep it. The current administration is
only using the CALEA certification to “enhance the  public image” of the Sheriff’s Office. The reality is, this
administration does whatever they want, when they want and hides behind the
CALEA certification. CALEA best practices are only in place during CALEA
audits.
Question:  In 2010
you spoke of developing a drug interdiction team.  Does our current Sheriff’s department have a drug interdiction
team and what are your 2014 plans?
Griffith:  No,
Forsyth County does not have an independent drug interdiction program.  The sheriff has had three terms to develop
one and as yet, has not acted in the best interests of Forsyth County.  We talked earlier about my plans to
reorganize the department and re-deploy our departmental assets.  Part of that plan includes the creation of a
comprehensive drug unit and an interdiction team that will focus on interstate
and high intensity drug
traffic areas (HIDTA)
.  Again, we
must make Forsyth County an inhospitable place for drug dealers. Working with the DEA, I would
have Forsyth County added as a HIDTA, which would make the Sheriff’s Office and
local Police Departments eligible for federal resources to combat this scourge.
The current Sheriff refuses to participate in this program.
Question:  Illegal immigration
and Winston Salem’s sanctuary status was a big issue in the last election.  Has anything changed and what part will the
sheriff’s department play in combating illegal immigration once you take
office.
Griffith:  My job as
a sheriff is to enforce the law.  I will
not use the FCSO to facilitate or assist in the breaking of state or federal
law, including our immigration laws. 
Again, unlike the incumbent, I will make every effort to coordinate
other resources or agencies necessary to enforce the law.  On a personal level, I believe it is
important that lawful immigrants desiring citizenship are encouraged to
assimilate within our American culture. 
As an American, I support English as our first language and do not
support efforts that encourage the use of foreign languages such as the
printing of NC traffic information in Spanish.   
Question:  In both
2010 and in your current campaign, you have pledged to be a fiscal
conservative.  You also promised to work
tirelessly to retain our great FCSO staff. 
Can you explain the relationship between these two concepts?
Griffith:  My plan,
as a fiscal conservative, is to save the citizens of this county as much money
as possible.   In 2010, the incumbent
stated the cost of hiring, training, and employing a new deputy is around a
$100,000 per hire.  This is a huge
expense, particularly if one has over 50% turnover.
For
example, in 2012, the current Sheriff fired Sgt. Mike Russell, a decorated war
veteran, serving in the NC Army National Guard. Sgt. Russell had just returned
from an overseas combat deployment when he was informed his “services were no
longer needed” and sent packing. Sgt. Russell was able to pursue a legal remedy
under USSERA and ultimately awarded a $96,000 settlement approved by the United
States District Court M/NC.  Forsyth County also had to hire outside counsel at
a tune of $54,000! In total, this Sheriff cost the Tax Payers approximately
$150, 000 not including the hiring and training a replacement. His arbitrary
and capricious personnel actions deprive the county of experienced law
enforcement officers and force the taxpayers to spend thousands of dollars in
unneeded and wasted expenditures.
I will treat each properly trained staff member as a
“paid-for” asset of the department.  If
we retain these assets, through reduced turnover, we have saved Forsyth County
citizens their investment.  I will
protect the investment of tax paying Forsyth County citizens by improving the
workplace environment at the FCSO with the intent to close the revolving door
of attrition.
Question:  Has the
high turnover rate at FCSO had implications for Forsyth County?
Griffith:  You bet it
has.  Obviously, taxpayer investment in
people who discontinue employment with FCSO is a huge and many times,
unnecessary expense.  Our three-term
incumbent has fostered an unacceptably high rate of attrition in the sheriff’s
department resulting in a poor rate of return for tax paying citizens.  Whether the high turnover was caused by
political expediency or untenable work place conditions, the current sheriff
has been a poor steward of the citizens’ money.
Let me add, it is not simply a money issue.  Schatzman’s over 50% attrition rate has
resulted in the loss of a vast number of years of valuable LEO experience.  It has been estimated by some that the
current experience level of a FCSO patrol deputy is now less than 2.5
years.  In previous years,
field-training officers were required to have at least 5 years experience.  This is not the case anymore.
It is a fact.  The incumbent’s
high rate of attrition puts Forsyth County citizens at risk. 
Let me give you a recent example of rookie mistakes by FCSO
most likely caused by lack of experience, improper training or both. Recently
the Forsyth County jail released prisoner Terrance Poindexter by mistake.  It was all over the media.   It was blamed on the Clerk of Court but
FCSO is also responsible. 
This guy, Terrance, was a kingpin in a federal heroin
case.  He appeared before one of our local judges
on a misdemeanor charge and the judge released him.  The inexperienced deputy failed to realize the numerous pending
felony charges, all of which were on file with the FCSO, and therefore did not
stop the release of the prisoner.  In order to cover up their mistake, the FCSO focused all the blame on the
Forsyth County Clerk of Court.  Just when FCSO thought they got away with it, this same prisoner gets
stopped by the police the next weekend in Detroit.

(March
13,2014:  The following paragraph has been updated since publication on
3/12.  I would like to thank the Griffith campaign for contacting me
with clarification on the next statement attributed to Dave Griffith. 
My notes got a bit confused and I apologize for any misrepresentation I
may have caused.)

Here is the kicker. 
Because of a miscommunication between the FCSO and Detroit LEO, Poindexter was again released back to the streets.   So
that’s TWICE, the FCSO was implicated in the release of the same dangerous
felon within a 30-day period.  This is
clear evidence of poor training, lack of experience, and bad police work.  It is the responsibility of FCSO to be
aware of pending charges against a defendant regardless of the Clerk of
Court’s responsibility. 
Do you know how FCSO found out the prisoner had been
improperly released?  His lawyer showed
up at the jail for a consultation with Terrance over his pending felony charges
and Terrance wasn’t there. 
Has Schatzman contacted the U.S. Marshal’s Violent Fugitive
Task Force for help catching this guy?  Not according the US Marshals
Service
.  Meanwhile a dangerous
felon is walking the streets, released twice because of incompetence within
FCSO.
Using this one example, without a doubt, FCSO attrition rate
has put Forsyth County citizens at risk.  
Question:  Wow.  On that story, let’s change the course of
questioning a bit.  There is a national
anti-gun movement manifesting itself in states like Connecticut.  Many Forsyth Citizens see this as a
portending threat that may undermine the 2nd amendment in our state
one day.  Where do you stand on the
issue of gun rights?
Griffith:  I am
absolutely a constitutionalist.  I
believe each individual has the absolute right to keep and bear arms.  2nd amendment advocates have
approached me with complaints, expressing their opinion the incumbent has used
his office to illegally deny various gun permits for personal or political
reasons. 
As sheriff of Forsyth county, if a citizen meets all the
legal requirement to possess a weapon, I will honor your right to do so.  I will not play power games or politics with
county forms.  I consider myself a
public servant charged to uphold your constitutional rights, and I will be
consistent in the exercise of my authority in this area.
Question:  The
anti-gun movement claims that guns cause violence while using high profile
cases like Sandy Hook as examples.  Do
guns cause violence or do people cause violence?
Griffith:  We do not
have a gun problem.  We do have a mental
health problem.  Since the 1960’s,
progressives and big government bureaucrats pushed for the shuttering
of our mental health institutions.  They
turned out to the streets seriously disturbed patients without creating a
network to keep up with them.  Today we
find ourselves with a broken mental health system and a lack of services
available for the mentally ill.  Even as
the incidence of mass shootings and violence seems to go up in our country, in
practically every case it can be attributed to mental illness or as in the Fort
Hood attack, terrorism.  I will protect
the 2nd amendment yet will exercise the full authority of my office
to keep weapons out of the hands of the mentally ill.   
Question:  Some
current employees at the sheriff’s department are concerned about losing their
jobs to a new administration.  Others
desire a change in leadership but fear retribution should they support a new
sheriff.  Do you have any advice for
these folks as this election heats up. 
Griffith:  First of
all, should I be elected, I will use good stewardship, common sense and solid
reasoning when evaluating and addressing staff and departmental needs at
FCSO.  I understand loyalty.  If I become sheriff, I will strive to earn
the loyalty and respect of FCSO employees. 
My belief in the Constitution extends into the work place
environment.  I will not use threats and
intimidation to deny these basic and intrinsic human rights.
As far as those employees who fear losing their jobs, I
recommend that all public employees educate themselves on current law,
particularly Supreme Court precedence as it relates to public service
employees.  A great place to start is
the Pickering Case and Connick vs. Myers.  
I recommend the write up at The First Amendment Center
The first line of protection for a public service employee is understanding the
law as it pertains to public service jobs and the judicious exercise of
such knowledge.
Question:  I have
heard that certain FCSO employees are concerned that the Sheriff and his
administration have access to Forsyth County Voting Records.  They have expressed concern that the sheriff
will fire them for supporting Dave Griffith. 
What say you on this subject?  
Griffith:  It is true
that voting records, specifically whether you cast a ballot or party
affiliation, are public knowledge.  It
is absolutely false that the sheriff or anyone else can access a record
of who was voted for.  There are
no such records available.  Anyone who
has voted knows that we must lawfully identify ourselves to election officials
in order to receive a ballot but no identifying names or numbers are assigned
to our ballot.  Each ballot is
anonymous.  Once it goes in the tally
machine, no one will ever know who put it there.  The only way anyone can find out how you voted is if you
tell. 
All county employees have the right and obligation to vote
for their best candidate privately and with anonymity.   As your sheriff, I will respect your
Constitutional right to vote.
Question:  Let us end
this interview on a lighter note.  Do
you have a favorite sheriff or “Hero” and how did they affect your life and
Career?
Griffith:  My first
duty station as a US Marshal was in Birmingham, Alabama.  My boss was Chief Deputy Ray
Otwell.  He was a fine and honorable man
who took great pleasure in mentoring young men like myself.  One day he pulled me aside and told me “No
matter how far you progress in the U.S. Marshal Service, one of these days you
will be in management.  The greatest
asset you will have will be the people who work for you.  Treat them well and they will respect you
and give you all of themselves. Treat them poorly and you will perform poorly.”
This gentleman taught me to care about people first.  As your new sheriff, from this foundation
will grow my administration.  My focus
will be on people, both citizens and staff, not politics.   I will expect out of my people what I
expect of myself: accountability for their actions, credibility in their
character, and responsibility for their jobs. 
If Forsyth County elects me as Sheriff, I will bring
accountability, credibility, and responsibility back to the FCSO.
(End of interview)
Let me tell you folks, this guy puts it all on the
line.  Dave Griffith is passionate about
the challenges ahead of him.  He sees
past the problems at FCSO and sees the potential to transform this agency
through new leadership.  He means it
when he says he will hand this office back to the people. 

If
we give him the opportunity, provide him the equipment, and get out of the way,
we are going to get the best he has to give. 
We need a Constitutional sheriff with a sound plan.  Dave Griffith is that man.  Dave Griffith for Sheriff. 

To learn more about David Griffith, go here, here here, here, here, here, and here.

Copyright ©Sandra Robles
 

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