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Sheriff Clarence F. Birkhead brings to the Durham County Office of the Sheriff nearly 40 years of law enforcement experience in both the public and private sectors.

During his first term as sheriff, he has focused on rebuilding trust between the community and law enforcement, streamlined administrative operations, updated technology, and set the tone through training and his actions to provide law enforcement with the goal of racial equity.

A native of Asheboro, North Carolina, Sheriff Birkhead began his career serving the citizens of Randolph County as Deputy Sheriff in 1984. In 1988, he relocated to Durham where he joined the Duke University Public Safety Department as a police officer. It was at Duke that he spent most of his career in public service. After rising through the ranks as detective sergeant, watch commander and assistant chief of operations, Sheriff Birkhead was appointed Chief of Police in 1998. For the next seven years, he led a department of 140 employees.

Under his watch at Duke, Sheriff Birkhead streamlined the operations of an agency responsible for all public safety functions across the University and Medical Center. He combined campus security with the existing police force to make patrol more visible and efficient while expanding the department's jurisdiction to neighboring communities. Merging the two divisions, doubled manpower and improved incident response times. These actions resulted in a better working relationship between Duke and Durham.

After 17 years of service at Duke, Sheriff Birkhead accepted the position of Chief of Police for the Town of Hillsborough from 2005-2010 where he worked to improve community relations and operational efficiencies. Sheriff Birkhead also worked in the private sector as a safety/security consultant and served Queens University in Charlotte as Associate Vice President of Safety and Security. He is a graduate of Shaw University where he received a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Criminal Justice. He earned a master’s degree in Organizational Management from Pfeiffer University. He and his wife Kathy have three adult children.

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