To North Carolinas (if that’s even a thing), there’s a new sheriff in town. This sheriff breaks record even before officially taking the post. Paula Dance, the new sheriff, is not just black, but she’s also a female; pun intended 😎.
Late November, North Carolina went to the polls and Dance was elected the sheriff. Thereby becoming not just the first African-American sheriff, but also the first female African-America sheriff.
During the oath taking, Dance had her grandson and granddaughter hold the bible for her as she swore to uphold all the promises she made during the campaigns. Dance comes into the office of the mayor with 20 years worth of experience.
She grew up in the Martin County, North Carolina and live a farm life before getting into the law enforcement. She began her career as a clerk/jailer at a local sheriff’s office. Shortly afterward, she joined the community college.
“I knew at some point, not long after getting in, that that was my niche. I started interacting with the public and being a public servant… and that’s when I knew that was the career that I had been looking for,” said Dance during an interview with a section of the media.
Being a black woman serving in the law enforcement, Dance had more than her fair share of obstacles. Other than the obvious race issues, Dance still soldiered on and graduated from the police academy and become an officer in the Martin County Sheriff’s office.
At some point, she became a wife and a mother to three kids. She had to juggle between her career and family duties. She took on every duty a normal police officer would do including doing patrols and investigating major crimes. Along the way, she became an expert and authority when it comes to police matters on child sexual abuse and domestic abuses.
It would be safe to say her public-career flourished to the point she is one of the very few African-American sheriffs in the USA. Though as we all know historically, the Black community and the American police force have not had a cordial relationship. There is general mistrust and Dance had to juggle between being a law enforcement authority and not becoming sale-out to her community. She admits having had the ‘talk’ to her children just to set the record straight.
“I have two African-American sons. One lives in Miami and the other one plays professional basketball overseas. But when he’s here in the States, I do worry about them because I understand… And I have had to have the talk. When we as a community, as a Black community, have to do things differently with our sons and daughters just to make them safe, then there is a problem,” said Dance.
There is no doubt, there is a lot of racial bias between the police and the Black community in America. Dance, having an influential position within the North Carolina police force, says she understands the value of diversity and community policing. She says she expects all of her officers, regardless of race, to know the areas they are policing. She expects them to interact with the people in the community they are policing.
“Under my leadership, it is an expectation that these officers will know who is in the communities that they are patrolling, and the people in that community know who their officers are for that area, so that they can start to build or have a common respect for each other once they get to know those officers.
It is certainly my expectation that officers get to know their community and that the community gets to know who they are as well. I think that goes a long way when you know somebody on a personal level versus just somebody you see and you make assumptions about from both sides.”