Ruffin lives up to campaign promises

Published 4:15 pm Tuesday, December 5, 2023

WINDSOR – Unity, visibility, and community engagement…Tyrone Ruffin made those his top priorities during his successful campaign for Bertie County Sheriff in 2022.

Bertie County Sheriff Tyrone Ruffin, a native of Murfreesboro, celebrated his first year in office on Dec. 5. Contributed Photo

Now, 12 months after raising his right hand and taking the oath to uphold the Constitution and to protect and serve the citizens of Bertie County, Ruffin still stands true to his word.

“It’s been a wonderful journey thus far,” said Ruffin who celebrated his first year in office on Dec. 5. “It’s been that way due to the great people of Bertie County and the great team that works for the Sheriff’s Office. We are building trust and relationships throughout our great county and we’re doing that through unity, visibility, and community engagement.”

Despite his young age, Ruffin has already racked up 15 years in the law enforcement profession, the majority of which he has spent in supervisory positions that have prepared him for the demands of being Bertie’s “top cop.” He also credits his mentors in law enforcement as well as completing numerous specialized trainings through the North Carolina Criminal Justice Education and Training Standards.

“Is the job of Bertie Sheriff what I expected it to be, yes it is,” Ruffin stressed. “Through my career in law enforcement, working in Ahoskie, Murfreesboro, Hertford County and Bertie County, I saw how each of those police chiefs and sheriffs worked and I crafted my style of leadership from that.”

One thing that Ruffin takes pride in is being a “working” Sheriff.

“When you build a foundation, you set the standard that you want your staff to follow,” he said. “I want them to say that they have a Sheriff who doesn’t mind being in the field. They appreciate that. I can do that and still get the administrative portion of my work done.

“I want to be out in the county. I want to be visible. I don’t want the citizens to say that they only see me at election time,” Ruffin added.

The rookie Sheriff is quick to credit his staff – 27 full-time sworn deputies and five administrative employees – for making his job easier.

“I have a great team. They get things done,” Ruffin noted. “In a profession that sees a lot of movement between agencies, I’m hopeful that we’ll be able to hang on to people a bit longer than normal because of the standard we’ve established here.

“I’m a strong believer in the saying that if you take care of your people, they’ll take care of you,” he continued. “That’s why I don’t mind answering a call. If there’s one I’m closer to, I’ll take it rather than ask a deputy to drive 30 or more minutes from the other side of the county. I’d rather leave them where they’re at, patrolling our communities.”

In today’s society where the job of being a law enforcement officer is more heavily scrutinized, Ruffin was asked if that makes it tougher to recruit individuals to fill openings?

“The answer is no,” he answered. “When a person applies for a job at the Bertie County Sheriff’s Office, I ask them why Bertie? They tell me they’ve been watching me. They see what we’re doing to engage our citizens. They see what we’re doing on our social media sites. My team also lets applicants know that our office is a great place to work. It just goes back to the standard that I set upon taking this office.”

That standard also includes what Ruffin sees as vital to maintaining diverse relationships.

“We have a new generation coming along. If leadership doesn’t know how to reach out to them and be opened minded, then we lose out,” he stressed. “I’m not saying we must compromise our beliefs and our standards, but we must have a fresh mindset. We have to understand what today’s younger generation is going through. We have to reach out and make a connection with them in order to grow and move our county forward.

“That goes back to your question about us experiencing any difficulties in recruiting new deputies, a lot of young people are seeing what we are trying to accomplish here,” Ruffin added. “They see how we dress and carry ourselves. The young people are watching and when they say they want to be like Sheriff Ruffin then I’ve done my job being a role model.”

As for crime in Bertie County, Ruffin said it’s not any higher now than when he took office 12 months ago.

“We’ve had some violent crimes this year, but we’ve constantly made the public aware of what’s going on,” he shared. “I’m a leader who is transparent. I believe in keeping the public informed. I don’t want them to find out what’s happening secondhand.”

Since taking office, Ruffin and his deputies have been very active in the community, attending various events or in some cases by simply setting up a roadside tent where they greet the public and share crime prevention literature.

“That’s by design,” Ruffin stated. “Being visible is a great way to deter crime and it also fits our strategy of building a relationship between the Sheriff’s Office and the community; it lets them know who their law enforcement officers are, that was one of my objectives when I began campaigning for this job. These events we attend also serve as a great tool for recruitment.”

As a father of four as well as a well known and sought after faith-based musician, Ruffin was asked how he balanced those roles around the demands of his job as the Sheriff.

“It’s a day by day thing,” he smiled. “My children (17, 15, 14, and 13) are at the age now where they are into their own things. I just wake up every morning knowing what needs to be done. I haven’t slowed down and don’t plan to. None of things I do outside of being the Sheriff conflict with what I get paid to do.”

Meanwhile, as Sheriff he also has to build and maintain relationships with other law enforcement agencies, locally and regionally.

“I want to have the best relationship with every first responder agency here in the county and our adjoining counties and municipalities,” Ruffin stated. “You build that both ways…requesting aid from agencies outside the county and answering the call when they need us.

“What helped me get this far in law enforcement is the excitement part of the job….answering those calls from those in need, whether they are citizens of the county you call home or rushing to help a comrade in another county,” said Ruffin, his voice trembling with emotion. “In some aspects, law enforcement has somewhat lost that sense of purpose. Now that I’m in the driver’s seat, I want to reemphasize the importance of the basic foundation of why we choose to become a law enforcement officer: to protect and serve. We can’t lose sight of that. Police work remains an honorable profession and it can remain that way as long as we treat everyone the same.

“We’re making a difference that you can see, that you can measure in Bertie County,” he added. “We’re still building on the foundation. I’ve had mentors to teach me, but there are some things that are best discovered and learned on your own.”

Another main source of learning for Ruffin in his rookie year of leadership has been the North Carolina Sheriff’s Association.

“They will help you in any way possible. I can call a sheriff in any other county and gain valuable insight or learn of ways to better myself and my staff,” he said.

Ruffin was quick to answer when asked if would seek reelection in 2026.

“Yes, I plan to seek another term,” he said.

In closing, Ruffin said he has already devised his Christmas 2023 wish list.

“I would love to find the person responsible for killing Ricky Gilliam and Horace Lassiter,” he said, referencing two unsolved murders that occurred this year in Bertie County. “To those families, I want to let them know that we are still working those cases and it’s our goal to bring the person or persons responsible to justice.”

And for those who know what makes Tyrone Ruffin tick, he doesn’t make promises he can’t keep.

About Cal Bryant

Cal Bryant, a 40-year veteran of the newspaper industry, serves as the Editor at Roanoke-Chowan Publications, publishers of the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald, Gates County Index, and Front Porch Living magazine.

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