WAKE COUNTY, N.C. — Wake County Sheriff Donnie Harrison can certainly be described as hands-on. That is just how he promised to be when he took office a year ago. True to his word, he is out nearly every night, patrolling Wake County streets and answering calls when he could easily stay behind his desk.
As if Harrison does not have enough to do, when he finishes his workday in the office, he hits the road and patrols the county.
"Basically, every night I ride. Especially Friday and Saturday nights. I'm out until 2 a.m. or 3 a.m," he said.
On Saturday, Harrison heard a stolen car call over the scanner. He responded and found a man hiding under a pew in a church.
"It just makes you feel good. I can't even describe it," Harrison said.
On Sunday, he went on a robbery call and found a man hiding underneath a car.
"A lot of times you'll be surprised at the looks I get when they do recognize me. 'I didn't expect to see you out here at 2:00 in the morning or 3:00 in the morning or 8:00 at night. I figured you'd be in a suit and tie.' No telling how many people have told me that," Harrison said.
Unlike most sheriffs, Harrison does not wear a suit and tie. He wears the same uniform his deputies wear. Harrison said it is all part of showing the 325 officers in the field that he is on their team.
"By me being out there, they see I'm a part of it. They see I don't mind answering the calls. I don't mind doing what they do. I think that's very important," the sheriff said.
Harrison spends a lot of time checking in with local businesses, making sure workers and customers are safe. He said the road is where he feels most at home.
"Sitting behind a desk, I know I've got to do some of it. This is what I like -- being out working, meeting the people, doing what I think I do best," he said.
Harrison said he will keep doing his best on the road as long as he is in office.
In North Carolina, elected sheriffs are not required to have a law enforcement background. They are given a gun, a badge and have arrest powers.
Harrison is the first Wake County sheriff certified as a law enforcement officer. He retired from the Highway Patrol in 1993.