Dare sheriff, Doug Doughtie, aims to foster stronger community
Doughtie has taken
over the Dare County Sheriff’s Office at a tough time, handicapped by
government budget crunches and a disengaged, discouraged citizenry.
But the veteran lawman, a big man who greets visitors with a cheery
smile and a vigorous handshake, said that the key to effective law
enforcement comes down to being more approachable, visible and
accessible. And less intimidating.
“I want to be open,” Doughtie said in a recent interview at his Manteo
office in the Dare County Courthouse. “I want people to know that they
can come in anytime -- that they can talk to me anytime.”
Doughtie, 53, is well known in the county’s law enforcement circles ---
he was a sheriff’s deputy here for 17 years, followed by a part-time
stint in Duck ---- but he also has earned his authentic local stripes
by holding numerous second jobs over the years, including as a
newspaper carrier, a school bus driver and a pool cleaner. That’s in
addition to volunteering at his church and his three sons’ schools.
It doesn’t hurt that he knows all the police chiefs in the county’s six
“The best part about it is we’re all friends,” he said. “There’s a very
nice working environment for everybody.”
Community policing has come to seem trendy, yet Doughtie, who lives
with his wife Shanon and two of their sons in Kill Devil Hills, said
it’s just basic police work. That’s what he did, he said, when he
started his career in 1977 in Ahoskie, where he worked for 12 years.
The police captain then, Steve Hoggard, is now Doughtie’s chief deputy
When Doughtie decided to challenge incumbent Sheriff Rodney Midgett,
who was elected in 2002 after serving for 20 years as chief deputy
under retired Sheriff Bert Austin of Hatteras village, he said he
believed that the department had strayed from its mission and was
disconnected from the community. Running on the Republican
ticket, he defeated Midgett in the majority of the county’s precincts.
Soon after being sworn in, Doughtie said, he decided to change the
shifts for road deputies from 10 hours to 12 hours, which provides at
least two people covering each district --- Hatteras, Manteo, the Beach
(Colington and Martin’s Point) --- around the clock.
He also directed the department’s 63 or so officers to find someone to
mentor, to assist, or to befriend. At least once a week, the
deputy has to contact the person.
“I want to be able to touch their lives,” Doughtie said. “I want them
to know that somebody cares enough to give them a phone call.”
As soon as possible, he wants Dare, like Currituck is doing
successfully, to start using Nixle, a secured mobile system that allows
public safety alerts to be circulated between law enforcement agencies
and the public in real time, similar to Twitter.
He is also working to get video cameras back into sheriff’s vehicles.
As a police tool, they serve two invaluable purposes, he said --
protecting officers from false charges from the public and protecting
the public from abusive police behavior.
Although he declined to point fingers at the former sheriff or a
specific deputy, Doughtie said he is aware of talk on the street
complaining about such things as sheriff deputies setting up a DWI
checkpoint to nab a wedding party, and others that cited times citizens
were roughed up, and when drug searches were conducted for questionable
“I’ve heard some stories that made me cringe,” he said.
Whether such accounts are true or not, Doughtie said, “Perception is
the name of the game. “Different people see different things.”
Doughtie said that deputies mingling and talking in the neighborhoods
will go a long way toward changing the relationship between them and
the community. Familiarity will grow mutual trust, which will grow
improved cooperation, which will lead to better information sharing,
which will lead to more efficient policing, which will lead to safer
Stopping and searching, as well as road blocks, to some extent can be
useful, he said, but “we’re not bumper-chasing --- that’s not what
we’re looking at.”
On Hatteras Island, Doughtie said, he has heard complaints of some
people being so intimidated by sheriff deputies that they were afraid
to speak to them. But at the same time, islanders have spoken highly
about other deputies there, including Lt. Doug
Overbeck, who has accepted a position with the department as a
full-time polygraph examiner, will be replaced by Greg Wilson, who had
formerly been a lieutenant under Sheriff Austin. Also, Tami Willis, an
investigator on the island, at her request, will be returning as a road
Doughtie believes that the persistent drug problem on the island and
elsewhere in the county will be alleviated by more trust and less
harshness between youth and law enforcement that he hopes will be
fostered by community policing.
“Kids are the key,” he said. “They’re buying. They know exactly what’s
going on. They know everything.”
When drug problems arise in the schools, the sheriff said, parents and
children will be informed of choices the student will given that are
“part of the solution” rather than first bringing the matter to the
courts. But if nothing is done, he said, “then they’ll be part of the
The once-lauded but long-dormant Alpine Tower and Therapeutic
Wilderness programs for youth, designed to build character and teach
trust and respect, will be revived, Doughtie said. With the
Tower, situated behind the First Flight schools, he said the goal is to
build a cabin and secure a little bit of additional land to allow
construction of a zipline. He also said he wants to restore the bicycle
Not negating a few rough spots, Doughtie said that the transition has
gone well, his budget is “in pretty good shape,” he has a cordial
relationship with the former sheriff and his staff is working hard.
Doughtie, despite his congenial attitude, seemed to be chomping at the
“There’s some things coming,” he said. “There’s going to be a big