Full Legal Name: Willie Louis Rowe
Name as it Appears on the Ballot: Willie Rowe
Office Sought/District: Wake County Sheriff
Date of Birth:11.27.59
Home Address: 1309 Pitkin Ct, Raleigh, NC 27606
Mailing Address (if different from home): P.O. Box 33352, Raleigh, NC 27636
Campaign Web Site: rowe4sheriff.com
Occupation & Employer: Retired Major, Wake County Sheriff’s Office
Years lived in Durham: Wake County: 47 years
1.How do you rate the current functioning of the Sheriff’s Office? What’s good? What’s not so good and needs improvement? If elected, what are your priorities?
The major problem with the Sheriff’s Office is a narrowness of vision about law enforcement, which keeps the Office out of step with significant innovations being implemented across the country. The incumbent Sheriff conceives of enforcement almost entirely as reactive. Policing is largely a matter of putting more people into already overcrowded jails that drain tax revenues. He devotes little, if any, attention to what should be the other key strategy of enforcement: making the force pro-active by working in an organized and sustained way with community institutions and groups to prevent crime. The community has to have a sense of ownership in the process of law enforcement.
The incumbent claims to have had 46 years of experience in law enforcement. But most of those years were in traffic enforcement, which waits for actions to occur rather than heading them off. That is the experience that shaped his view of police work, and it is inadequate to the task.
The narrowness of vision goes hand in hand with a closed way of running the Office. For policy making the incumbent has surrounded himself with a small group of people with similar experience and similarly narrow views. The office badly needs new talent with new, forward- looking ideas in its top ranks. And that in turn requires a new system for officers’ career development and promotions, with fair and equal treatment for all.
The main task of the Sheriff’s Office is to protect citizens. The citizens of Wake County should realize that they are not as safe in their homes as they might think. We need only consider the high volume of unsolved break-ins during the incumbent’s tenure.
The incumbent prides himself on being an “active” Sheriff. It would be more accurate to say that he keeps himself visible in the media and at public events. That kind of visibility is fundamentally different from the active engagement required by a strategy that is pro-active as well as reactive.
2.Some residents complain of poor relations between minorities and law enforcement, even alleging racial profiling. If elected, do you anticipate making changes to better serve the African-American and Latino communities?
I am committed to improving the relations between minorities and law enforcement. We need more focus on restoring mutual trust and confidence.
The recent Ferguson events provide a case study in what can result from police being merely reactive, without developing a committed presence in the community.
To a degree there is racial profiling, and it must be stopped. Aside from being unjust, it blinkers police officers’ vision; fixated on a small minority, they miss much of what is happening in crime.
It’s important, I think, to maintain a distinction between racial profiling in the above sense and criminal profiling, which is critical to professional law enforcement. Criminal profiling tracks patterns in individuals’ criminal behavior, without regard for their race, ethnic identity, sex, socio-economic status, etc. I believe that, with proper leadership and training of officers, criminal profiling can be conducted without racial profiling.
3.What in your record as a public official or other experience demonstrates your ability to be effective on the issues you’ve identified? Please be as specific as possible in relating past accomplishments to current goals.
Unlike the incumbent, I spent twenty-eight years in the law enforcement for which the Sheriff’s Office is responsible. For twenty-one of those years I was in supervisory positions, involved in policy-making and policy decisions. As an investigator and eventually captain in the Drugs and Vice Unit of CID, I have acquired first-hand, detailed knowledge of the day-to- day workings of drug trafficking and drug-related crime. I know how to detect, identify and act against criminal activity in those areas.
I have been active in the community in various capacities: coaching youth basketball, serving as a Deacon in my church, delivering holiday meals to families in need and the homeless, serving as a PTA vice-president and classroom volunteer. I have been involved in these activities because I believe we are all obligated to give back to our families and communities for all they have given us. My commitment to sustained police/community interaction in police work is rooted in that conviction and in the ways I have acted on it.
4.The INDY’s mission is to help build a just community in the Triangle. Please point to a specific position in your platform that would, if achieved, help further that goal.
We must close the revolving door of the County jail (people repeatedly imprisoned), and that requires programs that restore and rehabilitate people, returning them to productive lives.
A critical part of that effort must be the closing of the “school-to-prison pipeline,” in which many minority students are impelled from disciplinary measures in schools, often resulting in their suspension or dropping out, to immersion in the criminal culture that perpetuates itself in our prisons. The “pipeline” has become a major national issue, and many communities have started to deal effectively with it. With the recent Memorandum of Agreement about School Resource Officers, concluded by the County School Board, Police Chiefs and County Sheriff, Wake has taken a major step in that direction. The incumbent is out of step; he preferred the creation of school police forces to a reform of the SROs. I believe that SROs, properly selected and trained, can contribute to solving the problem; and I have been committed to a revision of their mission and responsibilities from the moment I announced my candidacy. I can be counted on to implement the Memorandum thoroughly and vigorously. The incumbent cannot.
5.Raleigh Police are testing facial-recognition technology to fight crimes. What is your stance on that technology and how would you balance civil liberties with crime-fighting efforts?
Facial-recognition technology can be a valuable tool in dealing with crime. If misused, of course, it can threaten or violate civil liberties. The issue here is how to maintain a proper balance. The critical thing is that the use of the technology be transparent within the existing laws, so that necessary criminal investigations are not compromised but at the same time citizens’ civil liberties are protected.
6.Several law enforcement agencies are using body cameras to increase transparency and accountability between the officers and the community. What are your views on this technology?
I am committed to equipping every officer with a body camera. That change will have four benefits a) documenting cases of officers’ conduct and interaction with citizens b) providing factual evidence for criminal prosecutions c) helping to insure officers’ safety d) serving as a training aide for officers’ development and performance improvement.
7.Law enforcement agencies across the U.S. have received surplus military weapons from the federal government? Why do local law enforcement agencies need these weapons? If elected (or re-elected), would you disclose all the military goods the department has received?
In the Ferguson episode the police seriously misused surplus military equipment from the federal government. There is no place for such equipment in dealing with citizens exercising their right to lawful and peaceful protest. That should be a fundamental principle in an open and democratic society.
There are cases in which the police may need specialized equipment in dealing with organized and heavily armed criminal groups who are a threat to law-abiding citizens. In such cases the issue is how to best use the equipment to counter criminal violence without harming innocent people.
8.When you suspect a newly admitted inmate is an undocumented immigrant, do you feel the need to report it to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement?
Illegal immigrants should be reported to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, with the goal that they be able to live legally and that our society can benefit from their talents and skills. If an immigrant is a criminal, or is wanted for criminal activity, the appropriate enforcement action should be taken.
9.Identify a principled stand you have taken or would be willing to take if elected, even if you suspect might cost you popularity with voters.
I believe that fair and equal protection should be insured to all our people, despite the misguided belief of some that they deserve favors or special treatment. Equality before the law is a fundamental principle of our democracy.
10.Identify some areas in the sheriff’s department budget where money could be cut and others where more funding is needed.
In keeping with the strategy of pro-active (preventive) policing, the budget should provide more resources to preventive programs and educational programs, while still maintaining safety through effective enforcement. Given the incumbent’s background, it is not surprising that there has been an over-focus on patrolling inter-state roads and major highways. Some of the money devoted to patrolling roads would be better spent on, for example, preventing home break-ins or arresting the perpetrators.