All police operations in Southport, N.C. have been suspended after its police chief and another officer were arrested on charges of corruption.
According to CBS17, the charges against Police Chief Gary Smith, 46, and Lt. Michael Christian Simmons, 48, stem from the law enforcement officers apparently working their second jobs while on the clock at the police department. They are both facing charges of conspiracy to obtain property by false pretenses, willful failure to discharge duties and obstruction of justice.
The arrests come after a joint investigation that began on April 4 by the State Bureau of Investigation, as well as the Federal Bureau of Investigation after officers tipped off investigators.
Smith and Simmons were allegedly driving overnight shifts for an unidentified trucking company that routinely required them to be out of town, and even out of the county.
Smith was taken into custody last Thursday and was booked under a $10,000 unsecured bond, but was released after posting bail. Simmons was taken into custody later Thursday.
“It is indeed that I get before you today with a heart laden with grief for all these events that happened today,” Mayor Jerry Dove said according to the news station. “It was a shock to me to hear all these, being a former chief and knowing the officers that worked in that department and hired at least half of them.”
According to the Associated Press, the department website notes that six other officers make up the force.
Dove said that while Southport officers remain suspended and on paid administrative leave, the Brunswick County Sheriff’s Office will be tasked with all law enforcement functions in the city.
“We will be relying on (the sheriff’s office) substantially on the road ahead to step into the void and provide a police presence,” District Attorney Jon David said. “The sheriff’s office already has overlapping jurisdiction with Southport. It’s not new that they would be patrolling these streets. They know the lay of the land and I’m very confident that citizens will be well protected.”
David also implored residents to not paint all of the officers in a negative light, as some of the other officers were the whistleblowers.
“A lot of these officers have done absolutely nothing wrong. Some of them are the ones that first came forward,” David said. “This stain should not be extended to the officers who take seriously their duty to serve and protect.”