New Orange County deputy explains why he joined force amid continued calls to defund police

ORANGE COUNTY, N.C. (WTVD) -- From a very young age, Desmire Walton has had a desire to help people.

Now he's tasked with doing that as one of the newest members of the Orange County Sheriff's Office.

"I truly believe that the badge is a symbol of public trust that the people of this country have given to law enforcement officers in their community," said Deputy Walton, who graduated from the academy with nine other men.

Six of them will be on the force in Orange County.

"All of the times we show up, people think it's because of a law enforcement action," Walton said. "But sometimes we're just there to be counselors, to be therapists and to be friends."

Deputy Walton is joining the force at a time when there are still calls to abolish or defund the police.

A national study of more than 200 police departments from the Police Executive Research Forum shows an 18% increase in the resignation rate last year versus the prior year as well as a 45% increase in retirements.

"I do this with reverence because it is important," said Sheriff Charles Blackwood, who is Deputy Walton's boss. "I can make a difference in my community and I know I've made a difference in this agency and for that reason I choose to stay."

Sheriff Blackwood, who's been in law enforcement for more than 40 years, believes officers have started to take more inventory of why they're in the business.

He has seen people leave because of attrition and earlier than usual retirements as well.

He noted that recruitment has never been more important.

"You as sheriff or chief, you have to do that," Blackwood said. "You can't delegate that to someone else--it's just like the owner of a restaurant."

He is in favor of redirecting money to intervention and mental health programs but not to his budget.

It would mean a hit to the training and retraining he's being asked to do

"The idea that you are going to take a social worker and send them to the calls we go on every day will not work," Sheriff Blackwood said. "Are there ways for social workers to assist us in what we do? Absolutely there are."

Deputy Walton served in the National Guard in New Jersey prior to coming to North Carolina where he took a job as a detention officer with Wake County.

This led him to a higher calling as a full-fledged deputy.

"It's about the tiny moments, the tiny moments of 'I have made a difference in somebody's life,'" Deputy Walton said. "Like arriving on scene to to complete chaos and leaving knowing you have restored a tiny bit of hope into the lives of the people you protect and serve."

There are 119 vacancies within the Raleigh Police Department. Twenty-five of those are going to be taken by recruits who will be sworn in once they graduate from the RPD Academy.

Raleigh names Estella Patterson as new police chief

The Wake County Sheriff's Office has about 30 "sworn" positions open and they said they're facing the same things law enforcement agencies across the country are dealing with.

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