Kenly, N.C. Town Manager, Justine Jones

By Raquel Rogers

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.

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.

“They don’t want to be led by anybody Black; that’s Kenly. They’re always harassing Black people. It’s racial.”

CYNTHIA KIRBY, KENLY RESIDENT

None of the department employees expanded on the alleged working conditions.

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