Durham sheriff faces two challengers in primary

Apr. 27, 2014 @ 10:50 PM

An incumbent sheriff running for his first election faces a former Duke University Police Department chief and a Durham County Sheriff’s Office veteran in the primary election.

Mike Andrews was the hand-picked successor of Sheriff Worth Hill, who retired in 2012. Andrews joined the Sheriff’s Office in 1979 and rose through the ranks to become Hill’s chief deputy.

But Andrews never before ran a campaign to serve in the post.

During the past two years, he’s overseen the transition of Sheriff’s Office operations to the new courthouse building, as well as renovations to the jail next door. His department has built a presence on social media, including Facebook and Twitter, to keep citizens informed.

After announcing he’d run to keep the job, Andrews said the Sheriff’s office would remain aware of the importance of providing mental-health services to jail inmates. He also wants to continue installing cameras in patrol cars and set up a video-visitation system at the jail.

Clarence Birkhead, who once served as chief of Duke University’s Police Department, is a former police chief from Hillsborough who ran unsuccessfully for Orange County sheriff against Lindy Pendergrass in 2010.

“I’m excited to be back in Durham,” Birkhead said after announcing his candidacy. “We love Durham. Nothing wrong with Orange, but I’m excited to bring my talents, experience and work back to Durham.”

Among other initiatives, Birkhead said he would improve the agency’s community-policing efforts throughout the county.

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

Richard Buchanan, who spent 30 years with the Sheriff’s Office before retiring soon after Andrews took over, said “people inside the agency and outside the agency” urged him to run.

He worked for 15 years as accreditation manager for the department.

“I know how agencies run and how they’re supposed to run,” Buchanan said. “I know the guidelines to follow, the policies and procedures, dealing with accounting. Basically, everything you need to know.”

Buchanan told The Herald-Sun during an editorial board interview that, if elected, he would make significant changes to personnel in the department.

He also said he wants to recruit volunteer citizens, such as retired cops, who could man the X-ray machine at the courthouse or help work on cold cases.

“They’ve got the time and we don’t have to train them,” he said. “It’s an untapped resource.”

Andrews won endorsements from the People’s Alliance, the Friends of Durham and the North Carolina Sheriff Police Alliance.

Birkhead won the endorsement of the Durham Committee on the Affairs of Black People.

Buchanan hasn’t received any endorsements.

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