KENLY, N.C. (WNCN) — The town of Kenly, North Carolina, will soon be without full-time police officers. All of the department’s officers have announced their intentions to quit — and now, residents have a lot of questions about what led to the resignations.
Kenly police chief Josh Gibson tells Nexstar’s WNCN he and the department’s four full-time officers put in their two weeks’ notice because of the alleged environment created by new town manager Justine Jones, who started in June. Gibson declined an interview because of legal concerns.
Jones told WNCN she said couldn’t discuss the situation and deferred to town attorney Chip Hewett.
Hewett said he’s still trying to figure out the path forward, as this isn’t a situation he’s ever seen in more than 25 years representing cities.
“I’ve seen resignations from politicians and the mayors and the council members. I have seen employees resign,” said Hewett. “I’ve never seen a resignation where it’s an entire department.”
The Johnston County Sheriff’s Office will respond to calls in Kenly so neighbors aren’t just left to fend for themselves.
“I will assign deputies to patrol the streets to ensure public safety if and when needed,” said Sheriff Steve Bizzell.
But business owners have concerns about relying on a county-wide police team, saying they want the town council to act immediately to try to keep the police force.
“If the town council doesn’t respond like they should, I think you’re going to create an even worse pattern for the business owners,” said Sandra Parnell.
Local resident Crystel McGowan said she’s concerned about response times, too.
“Everybody is short-staffed for whatever reason and calls probably won’t be answered as fast as if you have someone who is in town,” said McGowan.
An emergency town council meeting has been scheduled for Friday night.