Marquise Francis, Yahoo, July 25, 2022
Less than a week after the entire police department in Kenly, N.C., announced its resignation, citing a “toxic” and “hostile” work environment, elected officials from the town of about 2,000 residents have gone silent on a plan for law enforcement moving forward. The July 20 mass resignation of the department’s police chief, four full-time officers and two town clerks, who are all white, came less than two months after the town hired a new town manager, who is Black, leaving many critics to question whether race was at the core of the department’s sudden collapse.
Justine Jones, who has worked for 16 years in local governments in Minnesota, Virginia, South Carolina and North Carolina, was selected to be town manager after a “nationwide search” of 30 candidates, according to a town press release. She began the job on June 2.
Kenly is 36% Black, 20% Hispanic and 36% non-Hispanic white.
Police Chief Josh Gibson, in a resignation letter directed toward Jones, said he had been pleased with the progress his department had made in the past three years, but the “hostile” work environment that Jones produced made it impossible for progress to continue. Gibson, a 21-year police veteran, has not expanded on the alleged details, citing legal concerns, but added that he would consider returning to work if Jones were fired.
In the other resignation letters, obtained by WRAL, the two town clerks and other officers cited “toxic,” “hostile” and stressful work conditions.
Supporters of the police department say the town should side with the people who have been there the longest.
“We have a great police department. [Jones] is not for our police department,” resident Christel McGowan said outside Friday’s meeting.