Name as it appears on the ballot: Maria Jocys
Campaign website: jocysforsheriff.com
Phone number: 919-323-9148
Years lived in Durham County: 35 years in total
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?
- Durham County’s crisis of gun violence and saving young lives.
- Position the Durham County Sheriff’s Office as a true champion of reform that leads North Carolina in local reform initiatives that are actually implemented.
- Rebuild the depleted ranks of the Durham Co. Sheriff’s Office to professionalize, depoliticize, diversify, and improve public safety service.
Stop Durham’s gun violence crisis: With a meaningful partnership and shared strategy, we can save lives.
Durham suffered a record number of shootings in 2020 and then a record number of homicides in 2021. Most of the homicide victims are young Black men and juveniles, and that does not give anyone an excuse to look the other way on this crisis. The Sheriff’s Office with its budget of $40M and staff of 480+ people must do a better job to partner with Durham PD and the Criminal Justice Resource Center on intelligence and prevention strategies, intervention programs, and operations to stop gun violence.
Durham County’s current Sheriff is right to acknowledge he has jurisdiction inside the City of Durham, but he is wrong when he says he is “not responsible for the violent crime that occurs inside the Durham City.” A Sheriff is responsible for preventing crime in his (or her) full jurisdiction. City residents vote for a Sheriff. City residents pay taxes to fund the Sheriff’s six-figure salary, $40M budget, and staff of almost 500 people. Sharing responsibility means you are invested in helping solve the problem and improving quality of life for all Durham County residents, even if they live within the city limits. I will be a Sheriff for all of Durham County, including the City of Durham.
As a law enforcement professional of 32 years, I know the public is best served when law enforcement agencies break down silos and partner together to make our communities safer. Durham PD needs help, and under my leadership the Sheriff’s Office will do everything we can to help make Durham County safer – including the City of Durham. Our residents and taxpayers deserve to see our local law enforcement agencies working hand-in-glove, partnering together as a team.
Durham County residents deserve a Sheriff who is a true champion of police reform leading the state on local reform initiatives that are actually implemented.
The last Durham County Resident Survey (paid for by County taxpayers) showed the lowest public satisfaction in Durham Co. Sheriff protection in six years. People want and deserve a Sheriff’s Office that delivers promises of transparency and accountability. Durham residents are not getting what the current Sheriff promised them and they are not getting the public safety service they deserve.
In his 2018 campaign, the current Sheriff promised to create a Citizen Review Board “to bring the power of accountability to the people.” It never happened. He promised to stop releasing jail mugshots to the public. Three years later, he is now promoting mugshots on his own press releases. The Sheriff will not share his agency’s use-of-force data with the FBI, which is trying to create a national use-of-force database for the public. Basic information about crime rates, response times, staffing levels are not available on the website. Durham PD shares its data and is much more transparent.
On Day One as Sheriff, I will prohibit no-knock warrants so that what happened to Breonna Taylor in Louisville, KY and Amir Locke in Minneapolis will never happen in Durham County. The current Sheriff claims he banned no-knock warrants, but recently retired deputies say it is not true, and the Sheriff cannot point to a policy or even press release which announced an official no-knock ban. Other parts of my Six-Point Plan for Reform include creating a true Civilian Review Board and re-evaluating the School Resource Officer program to make sure SROs are committed to their roles as role-models and mentors to students as they help keep schools safe. I will share use-of-force data with not just the FBI but with the public, so residents are aware of who, when, and why force has been used. We will build a Transparency Dashboard on the agency’s website to allow the public to easily review key performance data of the Sheriff’s Office.
Rebuild the depleted ranks of the Durham Co. Sheriff’s Office to professionalize, depoliticize, diversify, and improve public safety service.
The Durham Co. Sheriff’s Office suffers from a serious staffing shortage and sagging morale. Response times are longer with fewer deputies patrolling streets. Deputies are working in a jail without proper certification. 30% of School Resource Officer positions are vacant. The Detention Center is significantly understaffed, and detention officers are overworked. As previously reported by the Durham Herald-Sun & Raleigh News & Observer, the Sheriff has filled his management team with people who previously fired from similar positions.
After 32 years in law enforcement and 24 with the FBI, I will recruit and promote leaders based on professional conduct, not political calculations. As the first woman to lead the FBI’s Raleigh office, I have the experience to re-organize, recruit, and retain qualified and committed law enforcement professionals. This will lead to better public service. Unlike the current Sheriff, we will join Durham PD in their “30 for 30 Challenge” goal of building a staff that includes 30% women by the year 2030.
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.
I am a 32-year law enforcement veteran who served eight years as a police officer and then 24 years as an FBI agent. I was raised in Durham from the age of 3 and graduated from Durham Public Schools. I served in various leadership roles at FBI headquarters in Washington, D.C., overseeing hundreds of diverse resources and personnel. I was nationally recognized by the FBI for my leadership, and I was the first woman to lead the FBI’s Raleigh office. I was known as a compassionate leader, good listener, problem-solver, and equally at ease briefing executive leadership, as I am standing in a farmer’s field, or sitting on someone’s porch or in their living room, no matter who they are, where they live, or what they look like, hearing their concerns, challenges they face, and the service they expect from law enforcement. I will be a Sheriff for all of Durham, not just the unincorporated areas.
Partnerships and community involvement were central to our mission to protect the American people from all threats. I recognize the importance and success that comes when working as a team. After the 9/11 attack, I helped lead the FBI’s transformation from a stove-piped reactive agency to one that is threat-focused and a collaborative partner that prioritizes preventing incidents before they occur. I also understand that to solve problems, you must have a thorough understanding of the crime issues.
I spent the last five years with an FBI gang and violent crime task force assigned to Durham. By working with the Durham Police Department, community members, other federal agencies, and through dozens of interviews with Durham gang members and associates, I learned about the root causes of violent feuds in Durham that have resulted in much of the gun violence. I also learned from these interviews how important intervention is in the life of a young person who is becoming gang involved, and the need for peer support that is consistent. I will bring that experience and a focused discipline to our goal of making Durham safer for everyone.
I have never left a position of leadership or employment due to questionable actions or reasons.
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?
The current Sheriff has said: “I am not responsible for the violent crime that occurs inside the Durham City.” It is a startling statement from a Sheriff whose jurisdiction includes the City of Durham, who is elected by voters who live inside the City, and whose agency is funded by tax dollars collected by property owners inside the City of Durham. It is a startling statement from a Sheriff who routinely speaks at press conferences after shooting deaths of children inside the city limits (2019, 2021). Despite his repeated claims that “Enough is enough” when it comes to Durham’s gun violence, the current Sheriff never presented or implemented an effective plan to solve one of Durham’s most significant challenges.
The current Sheriff entered into an agreement which allowed Alamance County deputies to patrol Durham city and county roads and public housing complexes like Oxford Manor. Rather than meaningfully partner with the Durham Police Department, the current Sheriff brought in another agency from another county which is not accountable to Durham residents. The Sheriff went 14 months before explaining this “Strike Team” partnership to the public.
The current Sheriff’s refusal to share use-of-force data with the FBI runs counter to his 2018 campaign promise of transparency, and it undermines a key reform effort to make law enforcement more accountable. Durham residents deserve to know how often their local law enforcement is using force against members of the public. Other local law enforcement agencies do share their use-of-force data, including the Durham PD and Wake Co. Sheriff’s Office. True champions of police reform should share the data to help build the most complete database that allows the public to compare use-of-force statistics between agencies and how force is used with different ethnic groups.
4. Durham has seen a record number of homicides and shootings over the past few years (and is on track to break another record again this year), with local officials and law enforcement seemingly unable to successfully address it. What needs to be done about gun violence in Durham? What role does the sheriff, who is elected by voters who live within city limits, have in addressing it?
The Sheriff is the top elected law enforcement official for Durham County, so he (or she) should help lead a strategy and implement a plan to bring down Durham’s gun violence. Voters have a right to expect that plan to get results and make Durham safer. Instead, the current Sheriff has tried to deflect his failure to bring down Durham’s record-level gun violence by saying he is “not responsible for the violent crime that occurs inside the Durham City.” It is an irresponsible statement from a Sheriff whose jurisdiction includes the City of Durham, and who controls a $40M budget and staff of 480+ people.
My five-point plan to bring down Durham’s gun violence starts with rebuilding a meaningful partnership with the Durham Police Department. Durham’s taxpayers and voters have a right to expect their local law enforcement agencies to work closely together to address Durham’s most serious public safety challenge. That partnership is not working well now.
Much of Durham’s gun violence is gang-related, so we should work to stop gang leaders from recruiting our children and encouraging violence. The sheriff should help lead partnerships to tackle violent crime, develop strategies to address the most violent offenders, and connect support services with at-risk youth and communities that have suffered from the violence. Serious gun crimes should be charged in federal court where offenders are more likely to be held accountable.
5. Would you support the creation of a civilian review board to review use-of-force incidents by sheriff’s deputies and recommend reforms to make the sheriff’s office more accountable to residents?
I absolutely support the creation of a Civilian Review Board. My Six Point Plan for Reform includes creating a Civilian Review Board that includes members from diverse groups who recommend reforms, training, policies, and procedures to help transform the sheriff’s office into a state leader on police reform. The Board will also review citizen complaints, use-of-force, and other incidents to provide guidance on improving service.
The current Sheriff promised a Citizen Review Board in 2018 “to bring the power of accountability to the people,” and a true Review Board never materialized. The Sheriff’s Community Advisory Board can only offer advice and cannot hold the Sheriff accountable for anything. Its function is not clear to the public, as membership, meeting schedules, agendas, and meeting minutes are not posted to any public website.
6. In a recent survey of 947 residents of Durham County, 56.8 percent of residents listed the quality of protection from law enforcement as their No. 1 concern and 51 percent of respondents said they were happy with the sheriff’s office’s relationship with the community. How do you account for these numbers? What can the sheriff’s office do to offer better protection to residents and improve relationships with the community?
The last Durham County Resident Survey (paid for by County taxpayers) showed the lowest public satisfaction in Durham Co. Sheriff protection in six years. People want and deserve a Sheriff’s Office that delivers on promises of community safety, transparency, and accountability. Durham County residents are not getting what they were promised.
As a law enforcement professional of 32 years, I know the public is best served when law enforcement agencies break down silos and partner together to make our communities safer. Durham PD needs help, and under my leadership the Sheriff’s Office will do everything we can to help make Durham County safer – including inside the City of Durham. Our residents and taxpayers deserve to see our local law enforcement agencies working closely together.
7. No-knock warrants have resulted in the deaths of innocent people across the country, including Breonna Taylor and Amir Locke, yet Durham County sheriff’s deputies still use them. Should the sheriff’s office ban the use of no-knock warrants by its employees?
NC state law does allow the use of no-knock warrants, but I do not support them. No-knock raids are inherently dangerous as seen in the cases of Breonna Taylor in Louisville, KY, and Amir Locke in Minneapolis, who were innocent victims killed during surprise entries enabled by no-knock warrants. As stated in my Six-Point Plan for Reform released in March 2022, on Day One, as Sheriff, I will ban the use of no-knock warrants. The only exceptions would be a threat to life such as in the case of a hostage whose life is threatened, or if there is a grave risk to the safety of law enforcement officers. If such a circumstance occurred, I would be the approver, not a line supervisor. When I do issue my no-knock policy, the press and public across Durham County will know it and there will be no ambiguities about it.
The current Sheriff told this newspaper in April that he banned no-knock warrants as a matter of policy, but he has never presented any record to show that is actually true. Retired deputies contradict the Sheriff and say they knew nothing of a no-knock ban. The Sheriff has never issued any press release or detailed statement explaining a no-knock ban. There is no record of the Sheriff engaging community stakeholders about a no-knock ban.
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?
I believe in transparency and the confidence it builds in public trust. I support the release of body-camera footage, but not until the person in the video, a family member, their personal representative, or their attorney has had an opportunity to view the footage. In the interest of transparency and as soon as possible, I will assist the process by petitioning the court for its release. By state law, a judge has the final decision on when to release video footage.
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?
There are times when the public’s interest and right to know far outweigh an officer’s confidentiality concerns. In incidents of serious substantiated misconduct, the public should know the discipline imposed and the nature of the officer’s position
11. Do you support the expanded use of citations as an alternative to arrests? Under what circumstances?
I support the expanded use of citations as an alternative to arrests for violations that do not impact community safety. People deserve second chances when making mistakes, and low-level offenders with substance use disorders or mental health needs should be directed into diversion programs when appropriate. Individuals who re-offend, or are involved in serious felony crimes, including gun-involved offenses, which have a direct negative impact on resident safety, are exceptions.
12. What policies would you support to reduce recidivism, particularly among youthful offenders?
I support intervention programs that help youthful offenders recognize unhealthy behaviors and risk factors of violence, substance abuse, and the importance of relationships. I am supportive of diversion programs that require youthful offenders to attend courses on risk-taking behaviors, drug and substance abuse, gang involvement, peer pressure, anger management, personal responsibility, and accountability. The Durham County Criminal Justice Resource Center offers programs for young adults that provide wraparound support that not only addresses criminal behavior, but also connects them to behavioral health services and diversion programs such as Teen Court and Restitution, which includes community service.
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.
I believe the minimum age to purchase a rifle should be raised from 18 to 21 years old, which is the age a person may buy a pistol.
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