October 31, 2010

Cabarrus sheriff candidates stress leadership, law enforcement experience

In this year's Cabarrus County sheriff election, only two candidates filed to run - a Democrat and a Republican - so there was no primary election.

In this year's Cabarrus County sheriff election, only two candidates filed to run - a Democrat and a Republican - so there was no primary election.

Democrat incumbent Brad Riley has served as sheriff since 2001, culminating a 20-year career with the sheriff's office. The Republican, David Graham, retired after 28 years with the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department, last serving as deputy chief.

Brad Riley

Born and raised in Concord, Riley said he's always been interested in law enforcement, ever since he and his high school buddies would sit in the back of the Cabarrus County Courthouse to watch criminal court proceedings.

He began his career in law enforcement in 1990 as a Cabarrus County sheriff's deputy. Riley was appointed sheriff in 2001 to succeed retiring longtime Democratic Sheriff Robert Canaday.

Riley was elected to his first full term in 2002 and re-elected in 2006. He said his experience, proven track record and intimate knowledge of the county make him the most qualified candidate.

"My opponent is from a different community," he said. "I've been with the Cabarrus County Sheriff's Office for 20 years, and there's a big difference between being sheriff and just being in law enforcement. I know this community and its people, and how to best protect and serve them."

If he is elected, Riley said, his top priorities would include "staying abreast of crime trends" such as drug abuse, break-ins and thefts of precious metals, such as copper.

He said he also would focus on gang control and would continue to educate young people about gangs by working with the school system.

"We started early with gang prevention, and I think we're ahead of the curve on curtailing gang activity," Riley said.

Adequate staffing for the sheriff's office is another top priority, he said.

"We've going through tough economic times, and we've had to freeze some positions," Riley said, "but I have a three- to five-year staffing plan in place that will provide more and better service to our citizens."

David Graham

During his career with Charlotte-Mecklenburg police, Graham worked his way up the ranks. He was promoted to deputy chief in 2007.

In that role, he said, he supervised thousands of felony investigations, oversaw a $22million budget and monitored homeland security and intelligence issues. He also helped lead several gang prevention and intervention programs.

Graham retired from the department in 2009 and said he's ready now to tackle the job of Cabarrus County sheriff.

"Some might view it as a negative that I come from Charlotte," he said, "but the CMPD gave me the opportunity to gain experience in a major urban police department, and a lot of the crime that occurs in Charlotte is pushing out to surrounding counties like Cabarrus."

Graham said one of the top needs in the Cabarrus County Sheriff's Office is better communication with employees and the community.

"There needs to be more transparency in the sheriff's office," he said. "For any law enforcement agency to be successful, it has to have the support of its employees and the public trust."

Graham also said he wants to take politics out of the sheriff's office.

"I think that's an ethical issue," he said. "I don't care what party you belong to. If I'm elected, I'm going to make sure that no employee of the sheriff's office ever works on my campaign or gives money to my campaign."

Graham said he'll also use some of the same innovative tactics he did in Charlotte to help prevent such crimes as domestic violence, residential burglaries, car break-ins and larceny.

"You take the crime that's occurring, dig deeper, do an analysis to find the underlying causes, then pump resources into reducing that problem," Graham said.

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