Busta’s Person of the Week: A heart-to-heart conversation with Sheriff Bobby Kimbrough

Busta’s Person of the Week: A heart-to-heart conversation with Sheriff Bobby Kimbrough
July 22
13:44 2020

‘It’s more than a job…it’s personal’

By Busta Brown

As you can only imagine, Forsyth County Sheriff Bobby Kimbrough has a ton on his plate. 

For Kimbrough, his job goes beyond the Sheriff’s office. “Busta, Winston-Salem is my home, I grew up here, so making Forsyth County safer and better is more than a job. It’s personal. I welcome the conversations with my community because I want to know what they want from me. There’s never been this kind of access in the history of this office. 

“Before I was a sheriff, a special agent, and a police officer, I was Black man. And long after this is all done and they bury me, I will still be this Black man,” Kimbrough said during our Zoom interview. 

He also shared his personal experiences with racism. “Years ago I walked into a hotel and the front desk clerk pushed the panic button and the police came to arrest me. I can give example after example. But we need to focus on what is important right now, and fix it together.” 

I asked how Black people perceive him as a sheriff. “The response has been very positive. But I have gotten a few emails calling me a coon, sellout, a slave to the white man, and even worse.” He remained poised and unbothered, yet I’m sure he noticed the disappointment in my eyes and the heaviness in my heart. 

If I was the first Black sheriff in a county and city where I was raised, I couldn’t imagine how I would handle hearing those comments coming from my own people. But Sheriff Kimbrough handles it like a pro. That’s exactly how a true leader should be. “I don’t make life about me and I don’t concern myself with what people think about Bobby. I finally realized what Maslow was talking about with self-actualization, when you release who you are, the potential that you have, and your purpose. I wished that I would have gotten there in my 30s, I don’t know where I’d be. So, at this point in my life, I don’t make life about me, it’s about my service answering to the people and God. So, comments like that don’t bother me. I’m good, Busta,” he said with a very peaceful smile. 

I used to do a segment called The Dungeon on my radio show, so I asked the history-making sheriff, is there anything else from his past that he put in his personal dungeon. “I didn’t like to read, but I love to read now. I’ve become an avid reader, so that old Bobby is gone in my dungeon now,” said Sheriff Kimbrough. 

He also shared some of the issues in law enforcement that must go into the dungeon as well. “Racial profiling and police brutality! They gotta go and never ever get out! We must change the atmosphere, because when you change the atmosphere, you change outcomes. And when you change outcomes, it becomes a chain reaction. Once you change outcomes, you’re affecting lives. So, we must never become so entrenched and blinded with who we are and politics that we ignore the truth, because the truth will define tomorrow for us. So many times, we’ve been chasing lies and we wasted time. But the moment I started chasing truth and getting serious about life, my life went to another level,” said Kimbrough. 

The more I read and watch what’s happening in the news, the more I think how tough it must be for my friends in law enforcement. When we’re running out of the buildings, they’re running into the buildings. While we’re trying to find cover from gunfire, they’re trying to find where it’s coming from and protect us. During life or death situations, as a sheriff, he has to strategize plans to keep his staff alive so they can keep us out of harm’s way. He sits in countless meetings, listening to the citizens, local leaders and city officials spar over what each of them need from him and his department. And on top of all of that, he has to be a father as well. Wow! How does he relax and shut it all off? 

When I asked, he immediately began to unwind, loosen his tie, and smile. And then with a very soft lowkey delivery, he let us into his personal space. “During my hour lunch break between 1 and 2 p.m., I watch westerns like Gunsmoke and Bonanza on MeTV. It takes me back to yesterday. In the evening I love to shine my shoes. Some evenings I’ll grab all 60 pairs of my shoes and start shining them until I get sleepy. I love driving at night. A lot of times I get in my personal vehicle and listen to some old school music, that’s my little something to grove to on satellite radio. Normally it’s about 12 midnight or 1 a.m. and I may drive from my house to Greensboro and back. That really relaxes me, because it’s not a lot of cars on the highway, so I’m at peace and can think clearer. It’s calm at that time of night. I love it! Riding my bike is calming as well.” 

I wanted to keep the interview fun and relaxed, but I had to ask his thoughts on defunding law enforcement and police reform. His response was as cool as ice and smooth like butter. “Back in the day, you used to get water for free. You can’t even get water free anymore, Busta. Prayer and giving love are some of the very few things you can do without money. My point is, to run a first-class law enforcement agency, it’s going to require funding at a whole different level. I’d like to see a social justice coordinator in every law enforcement agency that is not hired by the police department or sheriff’s office, they will be hired by the city or county. So anytime there’s a complaint dealing with social justice issues, there’s documentation and follow up with an objective person that doesn’t work for the agency. They will report directly to the AG’s office, and the AG’s office is the chief law enforcement agency of every state. That creates accountability on another level. And that’s just one thing that will change the game. And we need money to fund it,” said Sheriff Kimbrough. 

As he was speaking, what came to my mind is that law enforcement needs a lot more money for programs such as the one Sheriff Kimbrough mentioned, with more citizens working with law enforcement to keep the bad apples accountable or even out of the force. What’s great about his suggestion is to make real change, we must be a part of the change. And with leaders such as Kimbrough and Chief Thompson opening the doors to hear from the community and what we want, a change is going to come.

He continued, “A stray bullet doesn’t have eyes, Busta. We have a lot going on in our Black and brown communities and we must put energy in that space as well. We’re losing too many lives. I see the reports every day across this city and county and it brings tears to my eyes. I’m a strong man, but that’s my weak spot. We gotta have some conversations that’s uncomfortable, because there are many divides that are affecting our communities from so many angles. We must fix our literacy rates, food deserts, lack of healthcare, and lack of quality food. These are just some of the many things that cause criminal activity. 

“There’s statistics that says our zip codes predict a lot of what our outcomes will be. That’s not acceptable to me, Busta. These are things that I wish were in my control, because my heart and love for the communities goes beyond this office. When COVID-19 hit, so many people were being evicted from their apartments and I stood against that because I know what it’s like to lose everything. I know what it’s like to be broke. Several years ago, after my wife passed, I went through a difficult time.  At that time in my life I lost a lot of things, both material and personal. My house was foreclosed on, but look at how God works! The same agency that served me the foreclosure notice, ain’t it amazing how God and the people allowed me to sit as the head of that agency? So, I couldn’t sit back and do nothing when I saw my people getting evicted because of something that’s no fault of their own. 

“If we’re going to make some real change in our communities, we must have these conversations and then create even more resources for folks to get the help and support they need. We can’t divide on this, we can disagree, but not divide. We can no longer attack and hate each other, Busta. It’s time to come together. It’s time.” 

My phenomenal Person of the Week and one of the best men I know, Forsyth County Sheriff Bobby Kimbrough Jr.

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