Sunday, October 15, 2006

Interview With BJ Barnes

This interview came about when I started digging into some information on BJ. I had called the NSA and asked a few questions. They called me back the next day and politely answered. A few hours later my cell phone rang and it came up on the ID as private. The only person I get a private ID from is my daughter when she is at her grandmothers. So I answered. "Who am I speaking with?" the male voice said. "It depends on who's calling." I answered. "It's sheriff BJ Barnes", he said. I got grilled on why I was asking questions, etc.. and then agreed to meet him at his office for an interview. This is where it began.

So,I sat down a few months ago to interview BJ Barnes our current sheriff. I waited a while to post this so I could gather and verify more information. Sorry for the delay and I hope you enjoy it.

This is it as I remember it. So it's paraphrased, not quoted.

Jay Ovittore: Your full legal name is Eschol Edward Barnes Jr?
BJ Barnes: Yes, it is.

JO: What does BJ stand for?
BJ: Barnes J Jr.

JO: Have you ever served in the military?
BJ: Yes, for 6 years. 1970-1976 Marines (Reservist during Vietnam)

JO: Your opponent Berkley Blanks got the Simkin PAC nod this year. How do you feel about that?
BJ: I turned down the Simkin PAC this year. You know it's a paid recommendation.

JO: What is your role in immigration enforcement?
BJ: We have an indirect role. We do respond to all calls we get, including immigration enforcement calls.

JO: What can the public do to help expose illegal immigrants?
BJ: Continue to make complaints. It's really out of our scope, we turn it over to the SBI.

JO: You started as a deputy, correct?
BJ: Yes

JO: From when to when were you a deputy and was it in Guilford County?
BJ: It was from 1973-1983, then I was a magistrate for a month. In 1994, I was NCNB Bank of America Senior Fraud Investigator.

JO: At your website it says you are a college level instructor and maintain certification. Where and what do you teach?
BJ: I have taught at GTCC and Rockingham Community College. I taught Constitutional Law, Law and Arrest and ABC and NARC laws. I don't currently teach.

JO: On Rock92 you said in an interview that 99% of your deputies shoot expert. Is there any proof of this?
BJ: We have records.

JO: Your budget went from 20 to 44 million dollars. How long did this take to raise and why such an increase?
BJ: It took 12 years to increase and it is due to the County Farm and Jails and personnel expenses.

JO: Why did the School Board hear about the use of tasers in schools by your deputies on the news and not from your office?
BJ: They didn't hear about it from the news. I contacted Tony Scales.

JO: Is the use of tasers for defending students or to use on unruly students?
BJ: The reason I implemented tasers is so a Gil Barber incident never happens again. I made this decision to arm my officers with one more option before they have to pull a fire arm.

JO: Are the tasers to be used in K-12?
BJ: They will only be used in middle and high schools.

JO: In a few articles I have read, you say that 72% of your budget goes to personnel. Can I see a budget breakdown?
BJ: Sure. (He pulls out a spreadsheet with the budget. I never laid eyes on it.) The current budget is actually 47 million and 35 million goes to personnel. That is 74.23%.

JO: How much do you currently make?
BJ: $123,000

JO: Is a call for back up mandatory or at the deputies discretion?
BJ: It's their discretion. It all depends on the call they are on.

JO: If a deputy uses deadly force there is to be an investigation, correct?
BJ: That is correct.

JO: Who does that investigation?
BJ: There are multiple investigations. First, we have what we call the shoot team. This team consists of a Sgt. not associated with the officer and other non-associated officers. Second, we have an investigative team. This consists of detectives. Then we have the internal affairs team. And last we have the DA's office.

JO: Did the SBI investigate the Deputy Gordy shooting of Gil Barber?
BJ: No.

JO: You have the Sheriff's blog. Will you blog some more?
BJ: I will more then likely blog.

JO: Who designed your campaign site?
BJ: A friend of mine named Scott Redman.

JO: Thanks for your time BJ.

After the interview, I stayed and chatted with BJ for a little while longer. He was very personable, very politician like. The subject of the jail came up and he said that he could tell me stories and show me pictures, but unless I went to see it myself, I couldn't fathom what it is really like there. He asked if I wanted a tour and I said yes.

I was given a pretty full tour of the jail downtown. I was in command central, on most of the prison floors, and went through processing.

Seeing it, smelling it and hearing it. I agree that the jail is a problem. BJ's opponent Berkley Blanks is also on the same page. It did come to my knowledge that BJ had the money for a new jail in 1997 and turned it down at the time.

I have also sat with Berkley Blanks an chatted about his positions and what his campaign is about. He too is very personable. But this isn't in a it's a job/politician sort of way, he really cares about his work and his fellow officers. You can see it in his eyes.

I am endorsing Berkley Blanks for Sheriff this election.

I came to this decision based on a couple of things: Upon inspecting the sheriff's budget, which I had to obtain myself, I feel that BJ is mismanaging the department. Cost could be cut and taxpayers money could be saved.

BJ also embellished some of the facts, like the paid endorsement for the Simkin PAC, Alma Adams from the PAC said that it was a case of "sour grapes" and that it is absolutely not the case. I write about that here.

There was and still is misrepresented fact on BJ's website, saying he "was endorsed by the National Sheriff's Association, as Sheriff of the Year." The fact is that the NSA does not endorse anyone, I asked them. You can have someone nominate you or you can nominate yourself, but they don't do endorsements. I asked BJ about the miswording (as I put it) and he said he didn't know it had said that, after showing him the webpage, he changed the subject. It still reads the same way.

I was asked to call BJ and let him know what I thought about the jail tour. I called, and a message was taken and no phone call back. I have not heard from BJ since.
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