Name as it appears on the ballot: Gerald M. Baker
Campaign website: https://wakeforbaker2022.com
Party affiliation: Democratic
Years lived in Wake County: 60
1. What do you believe are the most important issues facing the Sheriff’s Office? What are your top three priorities in addressing these issues?
Now more than ever during the pandemic, law enforcement officers are risking their lives to keep our communities safe, and those struggles are made even more difficult by staffing shortages. Most law enforcement agencies across the nation are facing a crisis in our ability to recruit new officers, and to hold on to the ones we have.
For more than a year, we have been experiencing staffing shortages, and the issues that are caused by multiple vacancies. If re-elected, in order to reduce the number of vacancies, and limit the negative effects of staffing shortages such as low morale and burnout – I will continue to be proactive in recruiting, ensuring to select quality applicants. I will continue to support and encourage both hiring and retention incentives, as well as increased pay for County Employees.
Leadership that reflects the core values of Integrity, accountability, transparency and consistency must be in place in order to boost morale, and let all employees know they are valued. Maintaining a high standard of service, even while facing staffing shortages is a top priority for this administration.
2. What in your record as a public official or other experience demonstrates your ability to be an effective county sheriff? This might include career or community service; be specific about its relevance to this office.
Since my first day in office; integrity, transparency, consistency and accountability have all played a significant role in how I have managed, and will continue to manage this office if re-elected. I recognized the immediate need for organizational structure in the Sheriff’s Office and began that work right away. That re-structure and my leadership has restored the integrity and accountability this office lacked as a direct result of the leadership that was present prior to me being elected in 2018.
This office is now operating at a level higher than ever before reaching out to all members of every community within Wake County. The standard of service has been restored, and will continue to be maintained under my leadership.
3. If you are challenging an incumbent, what decisions has the incumbent made that you most disagree with? If you are an incumbent, what in your record and experience do you believe entitles you to another term?
Last election, I listened to what the citizen’s of Wake County not only wanted but needed from their Sheriff’s Office. As Sheriff, I have delivered on those things, and expanded on so much more. Citizens wanted illegal drugs off the streets, there has also been 23,464,920.98 grams of Drugs seized with a Cash Value of $779,270,630.50. Citizens wanted a decrease in burglaries, we have achieved that and will continue to reduce crime rates across Wake County.
During times of civil unrest, and a global pandemic – this office was a pillar of the community offering safety and reassurance as it operated without hesitation under severe circumstances. That is something, I am very proud of during my first term as Sheriff, that this office was able to provide and maintain a high level of service to the citizen’s of Wake County even under harsh conditions, while facing the unknown.
If given the opportunity to serve as Sheriff of Wake County again, I will assure this office continues to provide consistent high levels of service. I will continue to ensure the members of this office strive to offer the highest standard of customer service always, without hesitation, for all residents and visitors of the County of Wake.
I pledge to continue to manage these standards through a strong sense of honesty, morality, goodness, and ethical character. I pledge to continue to value and nurture the trust earned through honesty and excellence in service. I pledge to treat those we serve and have sworn to protect with courtesy, respect, dignity, and compassion to achieve that trust.
4. Recently, Wake County lowered the minimum bond for some offenses to reduce the number of people in county jails awaiting trial. Bond remains at $750 for those charged with a Class 3 misdemeanor. Do you agree with the bail reforms that the county implemented? Do you believe the reforms go far enough?
Yes, I am in support of improvements in terms of finding alternatives to cash bonds for individuals who meet the requirements to do so, such as non-violent or first time offenders. Our administration has been advocating for the issuance of North Carolina Uniformed Citations for non violent charges as opposed to physical arrests and will continue to do so if I am re-elected.
5. Many candidates have promised to reach out to the community to build relationships and earn/restore the public’s trust. What are some examples of outreach work you have done?
As Sheriff, I implemented an operative Community Relations and Crime Prevention Division that is now active throughout the entire county with bold, new leadership aimed at deterring our young people away from lives of trouble and crime.
These units are committed to enhancing our service to the community by striving to maintain a positive relationship between the citizens in our community and its deputies. The department now offers and sponsors various programs that help foster these relationships that did not exist prior to 2018.
Since I have been elected, the presence of this office in the community has increased dramatically and has allowed citizens to feel more connected to our agency and its members. We have hosted several community engagement events such as; Shop with the Sheriff, Community Day, Backpack Giveaway, Gunlock Giveaway, Hoops with the Sheriff’s Office and so much more.
Our Community Relations Unit has reached out to different communities throughout the county, and it has allowed for citizens who would normally be fearful of our presence, feel comfortable and grateful for us being engaged with them.
You can see the difference in the public’s acceptance of our office through the photos and praise on our Facebook page. We have been changing the culture of how law enforcement interacts with citizens and they have been overwhelmingly receptive.
6. Under recent reforms, the sheriff’s office has been tasked with setting up a dashboard to show the pretrial release status of people being held in Wake county jails that law enforcement, attorneys, and other stakeholders can access. Do you think members of the public should be able to access this dashboard as well? What else, if anything, should the sheriff’s office do to increase transparency?
The transparency of this office under my administration, is at an all time high. We provide the information that is requested and will act with respect in accordance with whatever the law makers in this County and State put in place. If the law supports public access to this information, this office will be fully cooperative.
7. The sheriff’s office has a budget of almost $102 million. What should that money go towards? Do you support shifting funds to community initiatives such as hiring social workers, crisis intervention, and de-escalation training?
I am the only candidate who has proven to be a conscientious steward over taxpayer’s dollars and this Office’s fiscal operating budgets. Under my administration this office has been fiscally sound and since I was elected in 2018, the Wake County Sheriff’s Office has received $2,253,366.00 in Grant Funding.
These grants, the Law Enforcement Mental Health Wellness Act in particular, allowed our office to hire a social worker, and fund officers to receive crisis intervention and de-escalation training.
We have also been able to purchase equipment, fund positions, and expand our community outreach program that our budget may not have allowed for with the grant funding.
8. Multiple courts have ruled that ICE detainer requests do not meet Fourth Amendment requirements for arrest. Under what circumstances should the Sheriff’s Office honor detainer requests? Please explain your answer.
An ICE detainer is merely a request that this office does not have to honor because it is not a criminal matter. There is no due-process, and it is not a judicial order, it is a civil proceeding. It is not a warrant issued by a judge, therefore, our office does not comply with detainer requests. I have been firm in my standing on this matter and will continue to be.
9. Under North Carolina law, body-camera footage is not public record. Under what circumstances do you believe the public should be allowed to review body camera footage?
During my first term, The Wake County Sheriff’s office implemented a new Body-Worn Camera Program. Maintaining transparency and accountability will continue to be a top priority of this agency as well as the safety of all citizens. I support the release of footage to the public once the District Attorney’s office and all other proper authorities have approved it’s release as long as it does not interfere with an on-going investigation or elevate risk to public safety in any way.
10. Similarly, police officers’ and sheriff’s deputies’ personnel files, including disciplinary records, are not public documents in North Carolina. Given that law enforcement in some cases literally has the power of life and death, do you believe it is appropriate for members of the public to know whether a law enforcement agent has been disciplined and why?
No, I do not believe that information being provided to the public is appropriate. I believe those matters should be handled internally and that is how this administration handles disciplinary actions.
11. Do you support the expanded use of citations as an alternative to arrests? Under what circumstances?
Yes, this administration has been advocating for the issuance of North Carolina Uniformed Citations for non violent charges as opposed to physical arrests and will continue to do so if I am re-elected. I believe by doing this, we are addressing issues such as overcrowding in our jails, and it allows the focus to be shifted to diversion instead of arrest.
12. What policies would you support to reduce recidivism, particularly among youthful offenders?
I believe the best way to reduce recidivism, particularly among youthful offenders, really starts with crime prevention. Reaching the youth of our community before they enter the system has been a priority of my administration. Through community outreach programs, and partnerships we are able to make a lasting impact on our children early to shape their opinions about crime, and the choices they will make in the future. We have re-implemented the D.A.R.E program in Wake County, and will continue to use our Crime Prevention and Community Relations Unit to engage with the youth.
Also, as Sheriff, I re-established the The Wake County Sheriff’s Office Academic Studies Program offering 16 new academic classes which has created opportunities to learn trades and continue education efforts towards obtaining a GED for residents court ordered to our jail pending prosecution or sentence in efforts to reduce recidivism.
13. Identify and explain one principled stand you would be willing to take if elected that you suspect might cost you some points with voters.
Section 287(g) of the U.S. Immigration and Nationality Act authorizes the Department of Homeland Security to deputize selected state and local law enforcement officers to enforce federal immigration law. I do not support this act, and my stance on it has not changed since the last election. I will continue to take this stand if re-elected because as Sheriff, it is my duty to protect and serve all human beings in Wake County regardless of citizenship or status. I believe it rips families apart, with no due process and I have not wavered from my promise to the residents of this county to not act as immigration enforcement agent.
The FaithAction ID card provides card holders with a reliable form of identification that can be used as a tool by law enforcement, city departments, health centers, schools, businesses, and cultural arts organizations to better identify, serve, and protect residents of Wake County. I have been in support of the issuance of resources like this, and will continue to be if re-elected.