Last week, the entire police department in Kenly, North Carolina, resigned, citing a “hostile” work environment less than two months after Justine Jones, a Black woman, began her role as the town’s newly selected city manager.
Joy Wright, a local business owner, said the community is concerned about what the collective police retreat means for the future of the town. Wright also said she was mostly frustrated because the town hadn’t been keeping residents in the loop with any developments.
CNN obtained eight resignation letters in total, consisting of longtime police chief Josh Gibson, four full-time officers, one part-time officer and two town clerks. The letters are similar in language, with most referencing a stressful work environment, though they don’t provide any details about the allegedly “hostile” workplace, nor do they explicitly blame Jones.
Jones started as Kenly’s town manager on June 2, according to an announcement from the town that notes she was unanimously approved by the council and touted her 16 years of experience working in “progressively responsible positions with local governments” in multiple states.
Brittney Hinnant, a Kenly resident, said she feels like the situation is a “race issue” given that Jones is Black, while the entire Kenly Police Department is White. Hinnant also said she doesn’t think the police department supports Black people and she feels they often harass Black residents.
Others in the community say they believe there is not a racial component to the situation due to the fact the previous town manager was a Black man. Some residents also cautioned against jumping to conclusions, saying they’ve always had a good relationship with the police department.
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