Sheriff hopefuls discuss drugs, school safety

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Jim Bray


By Peter Williams
The Perquimans Weekly

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

HERTFORD — The two candidates for Perquimans County sheriff agree the sale and use of illegal drugs is the underlying cause of most crime in the county. And while they both promise to get tough with drug sellers, they also say that simply arresting people won’t solve the problem.

“An aggressive law enforcement strategy that includes saturation patrols and surveillance techniques combined with uncover officers can be an effective way to address the rising drug problem in this county,” said Republican challenger Jim Bray. “I plan to implement a traffic unit that focuses on high crime areas and takes the fight to the drug dealers.”

But Bray, a retired state highway patrolman, says responding to the ongoing opioid crisis will require “incorporating rehabilitation along with enforcement.”

“My goal is not to lock up everyone who has a drug addiction but to work with families to help restore lives. The ones selling opioids and taking advantage of vulnerable people are the ones I want to send away.”

Democratic Sheriff Shelby White said that in the year and a half he’s been sheriff, he’s taken steps to crack down on illegal drug sales, including by purchasing a K-9 drug-sniffing dog and assigning a deputy specifically for drug enforcement.

“My intentions are to get another agent to be able to have a drug unit,” he said. “We are targeting the dealers to get the drugs off the street and also working with the federal system so the dealers can get more time in prison.”

But he, too, said arrests alone won’t be enough, particularly when it comes to responding to the opioid crisis.

“Awareness to the public and providing services for help are a way to combat the opioid crisis,” White said. “In working with the Albemarle Overdose Prevention Coalition we try to get the information out to the public to make them aware of the dangers and how they can receive help.”

White also the sheriff’s office is working with other agencies to implement the ANGEL program. Through the program, the sheriff’s office works with drug users who come into the office and ask for help getting clean. 

White, 40, has worked with the Perquimans Sheriff’s Office for more than 18 years. He was an investigator with the department when he was appointed sheriff following former Sheriff Eric Tilley’s retirement. 

Bray, 51, spent four years in the U.S. Marine Corps before going to work for the Highway Patrol. He spent 26 years in the patrol, retiring earlier this year with a rank of sergeant.  

While Perquimans recently was able to place a school resource officer at all four schools in the county, both White and Bray say there are other things they can do to make schools even safer.

Bray wants to have patrol deputies visit schools randomly during their shifts.

“I also want to make sure there is a limited number of entries and exits being used during the school day,” Bray said. “There should only be one way in and one way out when school is in session.”

Bray also thinks adding metal detectors at the high and middle schools would “deter the possession of weapons in school.”

White said he conducted a large training exercise earlier this year so that first responders could go over what potentially could happen in a mass shooting incident. Going forward, he said he’d like to hold a similar exercise every other year.

White said he also developed the H.O.P.E.S. program at the grammar school in which law enforcement officers interact one on one with students.

“This forms the trust with law enforcement so the students feel comfortable to provide information when they know of something happening,” White said. “It also provides a positive role model for encouragement.”

The sheriff’s office is also looking to begin live streaming school surveillance camera footage to laptops in sheriff patrol vehicles and gaining access to student rosters at schools that can be used in emergencies, he said

One of a new sheriff’s prerogatives under state law is the ability to replace all or some deputies upon taking office.

Bray said he’ll keep all current deputies so long as they support his goals.

“I plan to retain deputies that support my goals and objectives and have a strong work ethic,” Bray said. “ I will conduct thorough background checks for new deputies before they are hired.

Both Bray and White also said they will support federal immigration officials’ enforcement efforts if asked to do so.

“When it comes to immigration enforcement, I will assist federal authorities if requested to do so, especially if it involves a violent, dangerous criminal,” Bray said. “ I do not support the ‘Sanctuary City’ philosophy. I believe all law enforcement should work together to enforce the laws of our nation and state.”

“I would continue to follow the plans already in place and if assistance is needed then we would assist as well,” White said. “ I believe in working together with all agencies that need our help.”

Neither man believes their political party registration will play a big issue in the race.

“I don’t feel the sheriff’s position should be based on political party in an election,” White said. “ If I go to a house to answer a call I don’t ask their affiliation. We serve all citizens of Perquimans County no matter their political party. Each person is treated fairly and equally and each situation is handled in the best possible way.”

“I do not believe politics play a crucial part in local races,” Bray said. “The citizens are familiar with both candidates and know what each one brings to the table.”

White believes his tenure with the sheriff’s office makes him a good candidate for election.

“I am knowledgeable in every aspect of the Sheriff’s Office and how to handle situations that may arise,” he said. “I have formed connections with local, state, and federal agencies to have many resources available that we use often.”

White also considers his having been born and raised in Perquimans and lived there his entire life an asset.

“I have formed a bond with the community and know many people through the community,” he said. “This helps in building the trust of the citizens where they can reach out to me anytime for help.”

Bray believes he has the leadership skills to be the county’s next sheriff.

“I am a strong, proven leader that possesses a relentless work ethic that incorporates integrity, compassion and impartiality,” he said. “I will also raise the level of professionalism within the department and hold all members to a high standard. Law enforcement officers must lead by example and I take that responsibility to heart.”


Jim Bray

Political party: Republican

Age: 51

Occupation: Retired after 26 years with N.C. Highway Patrol; retired with rank of sergeant

Education: Associate’s degree, University of Maryland; completing bachelor’s degree in criminal justice, Liberty University

Military service: Four years, U.S. Marine Corps

Civic/community affiliations: Member, American Legion Post 126, NRA, NC Trooper’s Association, Mount Sinai Baptist Church

Family: Wife, Kim; two sons, Cole and Dalton.


Shelton “Shelby” White

Political party: Democrat

Age: 40

Occupation: Appointed Perquimans Sheriff in 2017; worked for Perquimans County Sheriff’s Office for 18 years

Education: Associate’s degree, criminal justice technology

Military service: None

Civic/community affiliations: Member, Perquimans County Child Fatality Prevention Team, NC Sheriff’s Association, National Sheriff’s Association; K.E.Y.S. partner; founder, H.O.P.E.S.; member, Fountain of Life Church

Family: Two sons