By Clint Parker
Buncombe County – Outgoing Buncombe County Sheriff Van Duncan did not “measure his words” at a meeting with citizens in Barnardsville last Thursday night (May 3) as he addressed questions from the residents there over crime, punishment and other issues.
“You know, you guys know I ain’t running again. So I’m going to be pretty straight up and honest with you. I always have been, but sometimes I’ve tried to be pretty measured in what I say. I’m not going to be real measured this evening when it comes to a few things. You folks are going to have to get involved in your local government. If you want this county to look a little different from what it looks like right now.”
Here’s what he went on to say on a variety of issues facing the county.
While telling residents that he has a heart for people with addictions he also added, “When they (the addicts) keep creating victims, they’re not the victims anymore.” he told the group. “They’re going to have to have a little accountability…sometimes without that accountability they’re not going to change…one thing that’s become very clear to me is as harsh as the criminal justice system can be some times, the addiction is much harsher.”
Speaking truth to power
“What I want your elected folks to hear is from you all. They can’t just hear from a special, select group of people that want absolutely no accountability and they think law enforcement is the worst thing that ever came along. They’ve got to hear from folks who live out here in the community too. And if you want to start getting your priorities heard about and the things that you want to see done, because you elect these folks to office, you’re going to have to get involved.”
Future of law enforcement
“I’ve been in law enforcement for over 30 years, it is by far the most challenging, frustrating time to do this job that I have ever seen…I see these folks that work here at the sheriff’s office and they work very hard for you and some of them have got 15, 20 years left to make and if it keeps going the direction its going right now, I don’t know what that’s going to look like. I really don’t, for them (the officers) going forward, and I don’t know what it’s going to look like for you and the community. So I think your going to have to get involved…Because at the end of the day it’s going to impact you. If you don’t think the services that your sheriff’s office delivers… and how fast this community can spin out of control, and I’m not trying to peddle fear here I’m just telling you…you turn that three to four percent of the population loose that absolutely has no self-control, [and] it’s going to impact you!”
“I know everybody’s got differing opinions about medical marijuana and those kinds of things. If it were medical marijuana use for medical purposes, I don’t think anybody’s going to get in a big uproar over it, but I can tell you from somebody that’s traveled to California, medical marijuana is kind of a joke. Everybody’s got a card and everybody’s smoking. But here’s the thing if Van Duncan wants to go home and smoke marijuana, I don’t think that’s a good thing, but what I’ll say is there’s not very many long-term consequences for me engaging in that behavior. But you have a 13, 14, 15, 16, 17-year-old kid, who starts habitually smoking marijuana, you’ve got an addiction issue and a kid that’s going to have some issues through most of their life because what the science and what the doctors tell you is that substance on a preformed, adolescent brain has a totally different outcome than it does on a 50 some year old man.”
“We fought a war on certain drugs like which is the worst. We really need to look at the causes of addiction – long term and fight a war on addiction. Quite frankly I’d don’t know if the addiction… I’d say it’s probably worse, but what got everybody’s attention is when everybody, you know when they started turning from prescription pills and started using the street drugs which generally have involved fentanyl which is a very deadly thing. Now all of a sudden we’re seeing people die in numbers we have never seen before and its got everybody’s attention, but it’s the addiction that drives it and it’s been there a longtime.”
Social justice groups’ recent efforts
“One of the things you’re seeing right now that their trying to push in Asheville City Council and they’ve talked a little about it at the commissioners’ meetings is you’ve got a group of folks, social justice folks, they want to do away with officer [stops]. They want us to change our policies where we don’t do regulatory stops on motor vehicles and we don’t do consent searches unless it’s signed on a form. Now here’s what I’m going to tell you. Those are the tools that we use when we setup on that drug house you guys are reporting that’s killing your neighborhood. Those are two main tools that we use.
“We’re wearing body cams. If that consent is non-coerced and it’s legal, it’s on that body cam, but if you make people sign forms you know how that goes. I don’t know that I’m going to sign a form because people are afraid you’re going to try and trick them into something or dupe them out of something. And if they tell you from now on when you got someone with a brake light out, or their tag’s dead, from now on you’re going to take that information and send them a letter informing them of that. Really?
“Believe it or not you got people who are trying to push that right now. Those are the policy changes they want APD (Asheville Police Department) to adopt and they’ve done it in some other places and it’s been disastrous.”