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Groups demand Johnston sheriff's ouster

Posted September 19, 2008

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— A coalition of civil rights organizations sent a letter to Johnston County commissioners Friday demanding that they seek Sheriff Steve Bizzell's resignation for derogatory comments he made about Latinos.

The 26 groups said comments Bizzell made recently to a reporter for The News & Observer newspaper in Raleigh raise serious doubts about his department’s ability to enforce the law without discriminating against Latinos.

In a Sept. 7 article in which Bizzell talked about his frustration with the changing face of the county where he grew up, he called Mexicans "trashy" and said the growing Latino population in his county was "breeding like rabbits."

"Everywhere you look, it's like little Mexico around here," he said in the article.

Bizzell later apologized for the remarks, saying his comments were targeted at illegal immigrants and and not all Latinos.

"His demonstrated conduct is unbecoming of a public official, and it conflicts with his sworn duty to uphold justice," the groups said in the letter to Johnston County commissioners. "Blanket stereotypes made by the county’s top law enforcement official are especially alarming because these sentiments are highly likely reflected in the actions of the deputies under his supervision."

Bizzell couldn't be reached Friday for comment.

Organizations who signed on to the letter include: El Pueblo Inc., the North Carolina NAACP, the North Carolina Justice Center, Black Workers for Justice and the Latino Community Credit Union. The Que Pasa Media Network, which operates a Spanish language newspaper and radio station in North Carolina, has also asked for Bizzell's resignation.

Board of Commissioners Vice Chairman Wade Stewart said he doesn't think Bizzell should resign over the comments.

The American Civil Liberties Union already has requested records from the Johnston County Sheriff's Office to determine whether deputies have engaged in a pattern of racial profiling of Latinos.

Some county residents think it is time for a change.

“It makes us all look like we are a little backwards and behind and we are not that way at all,” resident Tabatha Koziarz said.

Others think Bizzell shouldn't be made to resign.

Clara Price said Bizzell shouldn’t be made to leave for voicing his opinion.

“The Sheriff is fine. We love the Sheriff here,” Joey Perry said.


This story is closed for comments.

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  • eviltwinbob Sep 26, 2008

    I just want to know when freedom of speech was a reason to get rid of a politician? The only thing that Steve Bissell is guilty of is not being politically correct. 'Bout time that an appointed official that is in charge of keeping a community safe speaks his/her mind. I am tired of people dancing arround with their comments because it may offend someone. As for the ACLU and trhe NAACP they are lucky to be allowed into Johnston County. There was a time not too long ago when these groups were not tolerated within the limits of Johnston County, and certainly not in Smithfield. So protest, complain, write letters, go on TV, do what you want to stomp your feet. It is the voters of Johnston County that exercise their right to vote that will speak about Bissell and his job. Since when did an illegal alein get the right to vote? Since they do not have that right, and the people that back Bissell in his comments do have the right, it seems that Bissell will prevail and illegals need to leave.

  • carriekane Sep 22, 2008

    The Sherriff is 100% correct. All of his statements are true. I believe he should become a presidential candidate. No one else has been willing to say what the rest of us have been thinking!
    KUDOS to the Sherriff! AMEN! Round em up and send em back! Bring our troops home and post them on the border. Hows that for a solution??

  • wuf packer Sep 19, 2008

    Never critize a man until you walk a mile in his shoes!

  • juli28428 Sep 19, 2008

    Amen, cw2352379! I've intentionally stayed away from this "issue" because it just makes me sick. As a journalist, I worked closely with Sheriff Bizzell for several years - I know the man behind the badge and how he fights to protect the citizens of Johnston County. Of all the law enforcement officers I've ever worked with, I have never known a single one that can compare to Steve Bizzell.

  • Tax Man Sep 19, 2008

    I know it is hard to get the NC government to support employer's legal duty to only hire Legal residents with valid social security cards. We do need to punish them and the only way is the pocket book. Fine them much more than hiring illegals saves them - make it cost more to hire illegals than to hire Americans and immigrants with the legal right to work.

    By the way - here is another Sheriff held in high esteem: http://www.mcso.org/ - we need more like these fine Sheriffs who are out to protect and serve!

  • Transplant Sep 19, 2008

    The facts are true as stated by Sheriff Steve Bizzell. Since he has become the Sheriff he has done alot for this county with very help from the State and the county goverment. He is one of the reason I moved my family back to this area, because of way he has been cleaning up the past messes.
    Now if all the groups that want his job can't understand that,then thats to bad.
    Then maybe they'll understand that a county as a whole we can do more then a cryers group. If they do get him removed, then we as a county can vote him back in the postiton that he runs very well.
    (Easley out in 08)

  • DrJ Sep 19, 2008

    Never a negative comment should be made about a minority!

  • ibbott41 Sep 19, 2008

    TAX MAN. If you only knew how frustrating it is calling ICE, IRS.The police and crying out loud for protection when you see that you are loosing your business to illegal aliens and nobody cares, when you are working 18 hours a day to feed your family and somebody who doesn't care or have no respect or is not legal to start with is in front of you or is the favorite for the next bid. That's why I am here defending the sheriff because he is right.

  • whatusay Sep 19, 2008

    Tax Man...there are thousands of employers in NC who employ illegals...and our government know who they are and where they are... Easley is the problem...he protects the illegals..he wants them in NC. Every county knows where they are and the businesses who employee them. But, our government is paying welfare and unemployment to legal citizens to sit at home and watch Opra.. Eliminate welfare and the illegals will go home because Americans will have to go to work or starve.

  • mudracer Sep 19, 2008

    Like I said before "They are going to take over this country without ever firing a shot" God Bless America!