Paula Dance has become the first Black female sheriff in North Carolina’s history.
She was sworn in this past Monday surrounded by colleagues, family and friends. Her 28-year tenure is impressive, considering the state’s notoriously racist history. Dance was appointed the position after she won an election for the coveted position. There are only five Black female sheriffs in the entire nation, including Dance.
Attorney Kristen Clarke, President and Executive Director of the National Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, weighed in on the lack of diversity within this nation’s sheriffs department. Specifically, she focused on racial and gender diversity.
Clarke even expressed her concern at what appears to be a case of voter suppression of Black and Native American votes distinctively in North Carolina. Her concerns are valid, given that in every aspect of the state’s government agencies, there is an incredibly higher percentage of white representation among people in these positions even in predominantly Black cities like Raleigh, Winston-Salem and Charlotte.
Dance’s election is an important win though. She covets the first Black female sheriff to be elected in the state. The true irony is that Dance is the first Black sheriff EVER to be elected in Pitt County.
The county’s Black population is roughly 34 percent of the people who live there. Her campaign for the position was comprised of obtaining body cameras for the sheriff’s office, tackling the opioid epidemic with rehab programs and school safety. Hopefully, her strategy is to bring equality and justice in a fair and unbiased way so that all members of the community can have access to being treated equally by law enforcement in the county.
Hopefully, this will make the dawn of a new era in the county’s law enforcement practices.