Full Legal Name: Richard Hoyle Webster
Name as it Appears on the Ballot: Richard H. Webster
Office Sought/District: Chatham County Sheriff
Date of Birth: February 8, 1960
Home Address: 1145 Pittsboro Goldston Road, Pittsboro, NC 27312
Mailing Address: same
Campaign Web Site: No official campaign website, anyone can view the Sheriff’s Office Website for information about Sheriff’s Office activities at: www.chathamsheriff.com.
Occupation & Employer: Chatham County Sheriff Incumbent
Years lived in Chatham County: 50
Home Phone: 919 542-4988
Work Phone: 919 545-8122
What do you believe are the most important issues facing the Chatham County Sheriff Department?
Keeping the public’s trust is arguably the most important responsibility of any law enforcement agency. So much has already been accomplished through positive collaboration efforts between the public and our office. The crime rate in the county is at its lowest in recent history. Much of that is due to the efforts we have made to restore and maintain the trust of the public and their communications with us to help solve and prevent crime.
What in your record as a public official or other experience demonstrates your ability to be effective as sheriff? This might include career or community service; be specific about its relevance to this office.
I have been in law enforcement for almost 20 years, the last 8 years of which I have been Sheriff of Chatham County. My involvement in local, state and national organizations is well documented. You will find information regarding the specific organizations and committees on our website, www.chathamsheriff.com. These organizations and committees have provided me with many opportunities to gain valuable knowledge, resources and a network of individuals that enhance the efforts of the Chatham County Sheriff’s Office.
How do you define yourself politically and how does your political philosophy show itself in your past achievements and present campaign platform?
I have made the utmost efforts in my career to treat people with respect and fairness in all of my interactions. I am a very approachable person with the best interest of the community in mind. I listen to the needs of the citizens and do my very best to incorporate necessary strategies that will facilitate my goal to serve the people Chatham County.
The Independent‘s mission is to help build a just community in the Triangle. How would your election to office help further that goal?
My primary focus since being elected Sheriff has been community relations and maintaining the public’s trust. In the last eight years, my office has contributed close to 20,000 man hours towards this endeavor. We have initiated numerous programs to promote a unified community and support various public functions that bring our diverse communities together.
Identify a principled stand you might be willing to take if elected that you suspect might cost you some popularity points with voters.
My responsibility as Sheriff is to support and defend the laws in our state and nation and protect all the people of Chatham County. For example, there are those that believe officers should ignore the enforcement of certain drug laws. The laws, put forth by our state and national leaders exist for the public safety of all of us. At the beginning of both of my terms, I have sworn, under oath, to follow all the laws of the state of North Carolina and uphold the U.S. Constitution. I will follow the law as it is presented, until it is changed or repealed.
There have been an increase in drug arrests; is this due to an increase in drug sales in the county or better enforcement?
I believe this is due to a more proactive approach that has been adopted in addressing this issue, not only in the county but all over the country. Traditional approaches to the drug presence in communities involved the narcotics unit taking on the drug issues of the county alone, with no support from the other divisions . The more proactive approach requires that all officers receive specialized training in order to detect and investigate illegal drug activity.
What steps would you take, if any, to cut down on the drug culture? Would you support more county programs?
I support programs that put law enforcement officers in front of our students to instruct them about the dangers of drugs and gangs. The GREAT classes that my officers teach to our pre teens and teenagers in the Chatham County Schools addresses drug and alcohol abuse as well as identifying gang culture. Our youth must be aware that poor decisions can result in consequences that will affect their future.
What major crimes, if any, do you believe pose the most challenge in the county?
Chatham County is one of the safest places to live in the state. It ranks 85th out of 100 counties on crime rate. The most challenging crime for all law enforcement is theft, such as burglary, larceny and identity theft which affect more people than all other major crimes. Our efforts at the Sheriff’s Office have improved our clearance rates on major crimes and in 2009, our clearance rate was 44 percent, one of the highest in the state.
Where do you believe the most crime activity occurs in the county, and what can the local law enforcement departments do about reducing the crime rate?
Crime is usually associated with population. Approximately 40 percent of all calls for service, crime, and any other contact with Sheriff’s deputies occurs in the northeast part of the county, which is the most populated section. Nearly half of our resources are focused in this part of the county. Over the last few years we have established a substation in this area as well as increasing mobile data terminals in the patrol cars. These and other efforts are designed to keep deputies in their respected zones and reduce the amount of time spent in the office or other areas outside their primary areas of responsibility. With the crime rate peaking in 2003, Chatham County has seen a steady decrease since then, diminishing to its lowest on record.
As sheriff would you consider organizing sports activities with off duty police after school?
Under the current economic conditions, organizing another program would be extremely difficult. Our office supports and assists other organizations in team coaching or other related activities in the community. We have several employees now that assist in coaching middle school, high school and other team sports. Giving deputies the opportunity to reach the community through youth activities has always been supported.
Chatham County has been labeled as a “sanctuary county,” do you favor compassionate enforcement of the immigration laws? What steps, if any, will you take in regards to the ICE program?
I believe that law enforcement should treat all individuals with as much respect and fairness as possible. This applies to all laws that are being enforced. The Chatham County Sheriff Office’s vision statement reads that we strive to provide professional law enforcement service through employees with high moral and ethical character . These officers also demonstrate a high degree of humility and fairness. They are expected to use this model in interacting with all individuals. The 287-g (ICE) Program is not an option for Chatham County.