Tuesday's elections made history when several black candidates for sheriff in North Carolina won their county races. It was the first time ever for most of those counties, including two in the Triad.
In Guilford County, Danny Rogers upset six-term incumbent Sheriff BJ Barnes. In Forsyth County, newly-elected Sheriff Bobby Kimbrough defeated five-term incumbent Bill Schatzman. Both incumbents are white men.
Both Rogers and Kimbrough campaigned on education and reducing the number of people entering the criminal justice system. Salem College Sociologist and Criminologist Kimya Dennis says they hope to bridge the lack of trust between communities of color and the law.
“All of the police departments and sheriff's offices in the Triad area do community events,” says Dennis. “So, for example when we talk about the Winston-Salem, Police Department, they do community cookouts and so forth. The problem though is people still feeling uncomfortable because there is that disparity in power dynamics.”
Rogers and Kimbrough are products of the public school system. Dennis says she sees both men working to make sure that local schools get the resources they need. And she says they will serve as positive role models for students and the broader community.
“Having these two black men as sheriffs now will definitely make people feel that there's some change happening. It's not going to be quick change, and it's not going to be easy change. It will take years down the road—and it's reversible change: I always tell people with politics things can be reversed, right? But I think now that more and more people will say, ‘Our voice matters more.'"
In all, seven of the state's largest counties – Buncombe, Cumberland, Durham, Forsyth, Guilford, Mecklenburg and Wake – elected black men to the county's top law enforcement position.