Commissioners approve new diversity, equity and inclusion specialist at Columbus County Sheriff’s Office, among other requests

Commissioners approve new diversity, equity and inclusion specialist at Columbus County Sheriff’s Office, among other requests
Published: Feb. 6, 2023 at 10:47 PM EST
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COLUMBUS COUNTY, N.C. (WECT) - A sheriff’s office plagued with claims of racism is working to change the department, making several requests before the Columbus County Board of Commissioners meeting on Monday.

Among the requests was the addition of a diversity, equity and inclusion specialist to the sheriff’s office. Sheriff Bill Rogers, who has been on the job for about a month, says the full-time position will not only help the community heal from previous racial tensions, it will give neighbors new reason to trust their local law enforcement.

The position is at pay grade 67, meaning a salary range from $42,322.72 to $56,919.35.

It’s been a busy start as he works to regain the community’s trust after the previous sheriff made racist comments toward black employees. The recorded conversation led the DA to seek former sheriff Jody Greene’s removal before he resigned from office less than 2 months after winning the election in November.

Since Rogers’s appointment, he wants to make sure everyone has trust in his office by officially adding a DEI specialist to the team.

“It’s going to help within the department also with the rank structures in the department. I want everybody to feel they’re being treated equally and treated fairly, plus to help with our community,” said Rogers.

Lakisha Jordan, a Columbus County native, is moving into the position after 20 years with the sheriff’s office.

“I’m excited. I’m very excited,” said Jordan. “We’re just going to make Columbus County a better place to be.”

She has unofficially been fulfilling the duties of the position for a few weeks but she says it’s a position the sheriff’s office needed long before then. She hopes it helps bring the community together.

“We want everybody to be included. We’re not going to leave anybody out regardless of skin color, age, any of that,” said Jordan. “Everybody’s going to be included and it’s going to be done in a fair way.”

Commissioners eagerly approved the position, even making a modification to pay the specialist at a lieutenant’s level

“We’ve got great employees and great citizens,” said Commissioner Lavern Coleman. “I’m just asking us all to work together to focus our energy on growth.”

Sheriff Rogers says community members he’s spoken with have already given the move a stamp of approval.

“It’s a big response from the community with somebody doing that full time to bridge the gap between law enforcement and communities because law enforcement ain’t got such a good name now throughout the United States,” said Rogers.

Before Jordan moved into the position, Chief Deputy Jerome McMillian briefly served as a DEI specialist under former sheriff Jody Greene. Rogers moved McMillian to his current position after taking office following Greene’s resignation.

Other items approved by commissioners at Rogers’ request included an audit of the sheriff’s office’s evidence locker and awarding a contract to expand the animal shelter.

“To my knowledge, in over 20 years it’s never been audited,” said Rogers. “I’m in the process of trying to get the sheriff’s department accredited. That’s something that’s a very high standard and it’s got to be audited anyway for that purpose.”

Since the audit must be conducted by an outside agency to meet accreditation standards, it will be conducted by Blue Line Training Group.

The animal control expansion is reportedly necessary due to the need to shelter large animals such as horses or cows.

“When we go out and get them, most of the time it’s at nighttime,” said Rogers. ”We can have somewhere to put them instead of calling someone with a pasture to house them for us until we can find the owner or get something done with them.”

Commissioners approved Rogers’s request to award a local business with the lowest bid to clear the property needed for the expansion.