Sheriff launches outreach sessions
BY WILLIAM. F. WEST
Thursday, September 19, 2019
NASHVILLE — Nash County’s top lawman has decided a good way to reach out to the people he is sworn to protect is for him to sit down, have a cup of coffee with them and hear their concerns and thoughts.
Sheriff Keith Stone’s “Coffee and Conversation” effort began bright and early on a cool Wednesday morning at Corner Coffee Cafe, just a short walk from his office and across from the courthouse along Washington Street.
A couple of people were already having their coffee when Stone sat down and began talking with them. A few more people gradually trickled in, with one of them, Tim Miller, taking a seat alongside Stone.
Miller, a 64-year-old retiree, served in the Navy. Miller himself turned out to be an interesting story.
That is because Miller is a veteran of the Cold War. He was aboard the USS Midway in 1975 when Saigon was being evacuated due to the collapse of the American-backed South Vietnamese government.
Miller said he learned of Stone’s plans to meet with people at Corner Coffee Cafe by reading Facebook.
“Oh, I think it’s good,” Miller said of the idea of being able to have a cup of coffee with Stone. “I think community relations is great.”
As for whether he wanted to find out some things from Stone, Miller said he preffered to sit and listen.
“Ask, ask, ask, please do,” Stone told Miller.
Miller said, “I think he does such a good job I don’t want to interrupt him.”
As for his impression of Stone, Miller said, “Couldn’t ask for a better man.”
Stone said, “Good communications is everything — and our communications inside of the office is paramount. And we wanted to carry it outside.”
Emphasizing his office does not know everything, Stone said, “We want to be in the community and find out more.”
“At the end of the day, we as law enforcement officers work for the public,” he said. “We’re ambassadors for the public — and I think it’s always good if we can get out and talk and communicate with them and see what their needs are.”
Stone said the plan is to expand outward from Nashville to have more “Coffee and Conversation” gatherings.
Overall, he said he and his team try to be transparent in releasing information.
“And sometimes I get beat up for putting stuff out there,” he said. “But at the end of the day, as long as my public are aware and they know what we’re doing, I’m happy with it.
“We have a very high solvability rate on crime. We have good informants in the community. We have got a good rapport in the community.”
He also said his office is doing things other agencies five times larger are not doing.
As an example, Stone said four Nash County deputies are near the U.S-Mexican border training with the Texas Highway Patrol.
“We’re in an opioid crisis right now — and have more people dying from that than we do from car wrecks,” Stone said. “And the way that you combat that is through intelligence and through training.”
Stone, 54, has been Nash County sheriff since 2014 and has three decades of prior service as a state trooper.
Law enforcement is in Stone’s blood.
His noted his late father, Hubert Stone, worked 42 years in law enforcement, including as sheriff of Robeson County. Hubert Stone was first elected sheriff there in 1978 and he retired in 1994. Hubert Stone died in 2008 at age 78.
And a brother of Keith Stone’s, Kevin, 56, just retired from the U.S. Marshals Service in Charlotte and is now the chief Alcoholic Beverage Control officer in Mecklenburg County.
Corner Coffee Cafe is co-owned by Trent Coleman, 48, and his wife. The place opened for business in December.
Of Stone and his team having the “Coffee and Conversation,” Coleman said, “Oh, I love it. I wish they’d start doing it on a regular basis.”
Coleman has served as a police officer in Wake Forest for 27 years and plans to retire next year.
“We like coffee and we like talking to people,” he said of getting started as a businessman. “And I really like downtown Nashville.”