Former police chief joins Durham sheriff’s race

Feb. 28, 2014 @ 06:31 PM

Clarence Birkhead, former police chief of Hillsborough and an unsuccessful candidate for Orange County Sheriff in 2010, now wants to be sheriff of Durham County.

He’ll face incumbent Sheriff Michael Andrews and fellow challenger Richard Buchanan in the May 6 primary.

All three are Democrats. No candidates from other parties entered the race.

“I’m excited to be back in Durham,” Birkhead said Friday. He’s been back for about a year. “We love Durham. Nothing wrong with Orange, but I’m excited to bring my talents, experience and work back to Durham.”

He left the Hillsborough Police Department in 2010 to launch a failed bid to unseat Lindy Pendergrass as sheriff in Orange County. His departure from Hillsborough came in the wake of an investigation that found the department mishandled accreditation paperwork.

“No fault was found in that investigation,” Birkhead said. “No indication of wrongdoing and certainly nothing illegal.”

During his law enforcement career, he’s also worked as chief of Duke University’s campus police department.

He said he wants to improve on “a number of initiatives,” especially community policing throughout Durham County.

“Inside the city and outside, I want to make sure all citizens receive the services they deserve across the board,” Birkhead said.

He didn’t give any specific complaints about Andrews as sheriff, but thinks he has what it takes to carry the agency forward.

“I think the men and women of the Sheriff’s Office have done a good job,” Birkhead said. “The next thing for us is to make sure we are trained, equipped and really focused on serving the entire community of Durham.”

Andrews is finishing the term of former Sheriff Worth Hill, who retired in 2012. This is his first bid for elective office. He has indicated he wants to focus on mental-health services for jail inmates and continue to develop the agency’s presence on social media.

Buchanan, who retired as a major in 2012 after 30 years at the Sheriff’s Office, used to be the accreditation manager. He wants to start a volunteer citizens program and to bring in retired investigators who want to work cold cases for the agency.

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