Incumbent Sheriff Donnie Harrison touts his office’s controversial participation in a program referred to as 287(g), in which the Immigration and Customs Enforcement deputizes sheriff’s deputies to perform some immigration-enforcement duties. Wake is one of only six counties in the state to participate in this program. Harrison defends this decision by arguing that there’s a “misunderstanding” about how the program works, that individuals are only screened after they are arrested, and that the program keeps immigrant communities safer by removing the bad guys. But the empirical evidence suggests he’s wrong—participation in 287(g) doesn’t prevent crime.
Harrison, a Republican who won the sheriff’s job in 2002, is hardly a law-and-order caricature. He talks thoughtfully about reducing the jail population and via bail reform and pretrial release programs for low-risk inmates. But we’re siding with Democrat Gerald Baker, a Sheriff’s Office veteran who stresses improved relationships with heavily policed communities, strict accountability for members of his office, embracing diversity, and ending Wake’s participation in 287(g). Baker is the right man for the job.