‘We’re not trying to do away with the sheriff’: Beaufort County Police Force Committee meets again to discuss law enforcement options

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WASHINGTON, N.C. (WNCT) — Beaufort County commissioners continue to discuss the possibility of bringing another law enforcement agency to the area.

The county’s Police Force Committee met again Thursday. This was the first meeting since NC Rep. Keith Kidwell said he wouldn’t support any legislation to bring a police force to Beaufort County.

Kidwell and several community members have expressed concerns that this committee is part of a larger effort to defund the Beaufort County Sheriff’s Office. Commissioners want to clear that air on that rumor.

“We’re not trying to do away with the sheriff (Ernie Coleman),” said Beaufort County Commissioner Hood Richardson, who is also the head of the Police Force Committee. “He’s still going to be here. He’s still going to have his constitutional duties.”

Thursday’s meeting started with a public comment period, where several people shared their opinions. Some people were in favor of bringing a police force to the county.

“There are several issues going on in rural communities right now and you know we need to get it together,” said Barbara Gaskins, who lives in the county.

Some were opposed.

“I feel like we would lose protections and it would actually cost the taxpayers more when the rubber hits the road,” said Carolyn Gaskins, chair of the Beaufort County Republican Party.

Some need more answers.

“I would live further details on what the citizens of Beaufort County are going to gain,” said Gary Blount, who lives in the county.

Richardson said there are many pros to bringing in another law enforcement agency.

“The biggest point of gain for the community members is everybody will get a shot at equal justice, instead of having to say to the sheriff, ‘I gave you $100 in the last campaign, so you have to do this for me,'” he said. “Because there’s too much favoritism in the present system.”

Part of discussion at the meeting centered around a trip to Gaston County, where there’s a police force similar to the one commissioners are researching. That trip will take place in July.

“The purpose of the trip is so that we can speak to the people in Gastonia about how they’re system is working and the problems that they see with it that we need to try to avoid if we were to do the same thing here,” said Richardson.

County commissioners want to stress this is just a fact-finding committee. No decisions are being made yet. The committee will tentatively meet again on June 17 at 6 p.m.

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