Local News

Turnover under new Wake sheriff making waves

Posted January 2, 2019 7:31 p.m. EST
Updated January 2, 2019 7:55 p.m. EST

— Wake County Sheriff Gerald Baker has been on the job one month, and some of the changes he's making are creating discontent.

A number of veteran employees have told WRAL News that they were called into Baker's office before and during the holidays and told they were being terminated or demoted to positions in the detention center, with a cut in rank and pay.

Some resigned.

Baker wasn't available to comment Wednesday, and his management team wasn't able to provide specific figures on terminations, demotions and promotions.

Frank Sancineto, president of the Wake County Fraternal Order of Police, said in a news release that about 40 employees were fired or demoted.

"This is of grave concern," Sancineto said. "While many of these officers are not members of our lodge, they are people who are mothers, fathers and, above all else, public servants who care about their community and exemplify the standards we uphold."

Sheriffs in North Carolina have broad legal authority to hire and fire employees, and every transition to a new sheriff creates angst for deputies and their families.

The day after he upset longtime Sheriff Donnie Harrison, Baker discussed turnover concerns in an interview with WRAL News.

"I don't think anyone who's doing their job and doing it professionally and according to policies and procedures should have anything to worry about. Anyone who does not, should be," he said at the time.

Those who have left the sheriff's office declined to speak publicly as they search for new jobs, but David Blackwelder, president of the Wake County chapter of the North Carolina Sheriff Police Alliance, said Baker needs to stick with the position he espoused in November.

"It's not right to fire somebody because you don't like them or because they don't align with your political ideology," Blackwelder said. "To me, give them a shot. Give them a chance to prove themselves."

The Wake County Sheriff's Office has more than 1,000 sworn deputies and civilian staffers.