‘No Sunglasses’ Sheriff Drops Program To Do Welfare Checks On Elderly

Wake County Sheriff Gerald Baker said that the program only helps a small portion of the county's population.

Wake County, NC – Wake County Sheriff Gerald Baker has announced that his office will no longer operate a program aimed at helping senior citizens in his jurisdiction.

The Citizens Well-Check Program was established in 2005 by former Wake County Sheriff Donnie Harrison in order to help elderly people remain in their own residences as they became older, WRAL reported.

Every day at 3 p.m., senior citizens participating in the program receive an automated call from the Wake County Sheriff’s Office (WCSO).

If there is no response, the line is busy, or an answering machine picks up, the WCSO attempts a second automated call, according to the county’s website.

In the event the participant still cannot be reached, the sheriff’s office places a call to his or her emergency contacts, and if that effort fails, a deputy is dispatched to the participant’s home for a welfare check.

Approximately 100 seniors are currently participating in the program, and there is a waiting list of citizens who want to join, WRAL reported.

On Tuesday, Sheriff Baker announced that he is ending the Citizens Well-Check Program effective July 1.

"At the end of the day, the bigger picture here is serving all of Wake County and not just a handful of people," he told WRAL.

Sheriff Baker did not provide details regarding how much manpower or time the program currently requires.

Resident Robin Ingram, 84, said she was upset to learn that the program was ending, so she called the sheriff to ask him why.

"His argument is, if you can't do it for everybody, don't do it at all, which to me is a stupid argument," Ingram said.

She noted that her two sons live out-of-state, and that she uses the program as a safety net while she continues to live in her own home.

“[Without the daily check], I could be dead for a week, and no one would know," she told WRAL.

Sheriff Baker said that if someone is concerned about a family member living in Wake County, they can call the sheriff’s office for a welfare check.

Former Sheriff Harrison said that establishing the Citizens Well-Check Program was one of the proudest accomplishments of his time in office, and that he is disappointed Sheriff Baker is shutting it down.

The sheriff has been making news for banning his deputies from wearing sunglasses on duty, and announcing that he would stop issuing Tasers to deputies.

He also changed the county's pursuit policy so that deputies will be unable to initiate a pursuit of a suspect, and must ask permission from a supervisor.

David Blackwelder, who is running against Sheriff Baker in the next election, posted a copy of the memo banning sunglasses to his campaign Facebook page with the caption “misplaced priorities.”

Blackwelder, who has been a police officer with another local department for nine years, said that the edict supported one of the sheriff’s pet peeves.

“He just doesn’t agree with people wearing their sunglasses while dealing with the public. He believes that officers should look at them directly with their eyes,” he said.

That's something that deputies could still do if they were allowed to lift their glasses up on their head when talking to people. However the sheriff's policy doesn't allow for that.

“We’re cops, we’re outside, we’re going to be wearing sunglasses,” Blackwelder said. “Your sunglasses are basically part of your uniform.”

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