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Black News and Black Views with a Whole Lotta Attitude

The Hire of a Black Town Manager Catalyzes Entire Police Department to Resign

One officer who resigned said he’d reconsider if the new manager was fired.

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Image for article titled The Hire of a Black Town Manager Catalyzes Entire Police Department to Resign
Illustration: News & Observer/ABC 11 News (Fair Use)

After a new North Carolina town manager, Justine Jones, was hired, nearly the entire police department resigned, according to Yahoo! News. They claimed they resigned due to a “toxic” and “hostile” work environment. It’s unclear whether race had anything to do with the exodus but the employees who left were all white and Jones is Black.

According to the report, Jones has experience working in local government for 16 years across multiple states including Minnesota, Virginia and South Carolina. After a “nationwide” search of 30 candidates, she was picked for town manager of Kenly, Nc. According to the town’s demographics, Kenly is 36 percent Black, 20 percent Hispanic and 36 percent white.

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The police department’s chief, four full-time officers and two town clerks handed in their resignation within two months of Jone’s arrival. Some of their letters were directed toward her.

More on the resignations from Yahoo! News:

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.

He reiterated these sentiments on his personal social media page.

“I have put in my 2 weeks notice along with the whole police dept.,” Gibson wrote on Facebook last Wednesday. “The new manager has created an environment I do not feel we can perform our duties and services to the community.”

In the other resignation letters, obtained by WRAL, the two town clerks and other officers cited “toxic,” “hostile” and stressful work conditions. None of the department employees expanded on the alleged working conditions.

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There were mixed reactions to the resignations, all of which were shared at a Town Hall. Residents like Christel McGowen believe the Town Council should side with the officers and fire Jones.

“They’ve been here over 20 years. This woman comes in and I have a lot to say, but I can’t,” McGowan told News & Observer. “She sued Virginia, she sued South Carolina and I wouldn’t doubt it if she sues us.” Per the report, Jones previously sued those states for racial discrimination.

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On the other side, residents like Cynthia Kirby believe the resignation was due to racial tensions. “They don’t want to be led by anybody Black; that’s Kenly. They’re always harassing Black people. It’s racial,” Kirby told News & Observer. “I hope this doesn’t end in her quitting because that’s not right. You can’t judge anybody because they make you do your job.”

Forreal though, how much damage can one person do in two months? We often see situations like these end up in companies driving out their Black employees or school districts driving out Black teachers. This time it’s the opposite. Though, it’s not a far fetched idea that the all-white employees left after seeing a Black woman come into power.

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Jones has not given any comments to the media about the resignations.