Durham’s First Black Sheriff Fights For Retraining And Rebuilding

Jun 4, 2019

A native of Asheboro, Birkhead spent 17 years working in Duke University's Public Safety department.

In 1984 when Clarence F. Birkhead became a deputy sheriff in Randolph County, he had no idea he would eventually take the helm as Durham’s first African American sheriff. Birkhead finds it counter-intuitive that a town with such rich black history and culture had not elected a black sheriff prior to 2018, but he says he is humbled to be the first.

Like many of the incoming sheriffs in his class, Birkhead won on a progressive platform of criminal justice reform; protecting the growing immigrant community; rebuilding the relationship between law enforcement and the community; and reducing gun violence. Birkhead believes the answer to many of the problems facing law enforcement is retraining: He plans to retrain school resource officers to limit the likelihood of contributing to the school-to-prison pipeline. He also continues to take a stand against the 287(g) program calling it unconstitutional. And Birkhead wants legislators and district attorneys to reconsider how they handle low-level offenses. Sheriff Birkhead joins host Frank Stasio to share his plans for his tenure in office.