A North Carolina sheriff was recorded calling Black employees by derogatory names and saying they should be fired, and several Black officers in leadership positions were later demoted or fired.
The Raleigh News & Observer reports that the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation confirmed Wednesday (Sept. 28) that it launched an obstruction of justice probe against Columbus County Sheriff Jody Greene after a local prosecutor requested an investigation.
Local TV station WECT broke the news about the recording on Wednesday.
“I’m sick of these Black bastards. I’m going to clean house and be done with it,” Greene, who is white, said in a February 2019 phone call with then-Captain Jason Soles, who recorded about six and a half minutes of their conversation.
At that time, Soles was the acting sheriff because Greene was in an election dispute with the previous sheriff, Lewis Hatcher, who is Black. Election officials were investigating a complaint about whether Greene was eligible to serve as sheriff. Greene had suspected that Black deputies in the department were loyal to Hatcher and had leaked information to him.
Soles, who is white, is now running for Columbus County Sheriff against Greene. He told WECT that he had previously shared the recording with state and county officials, but the SBI declined to investigate until the local prosecutor requested a probe.
In the phone call, Greene said he should fire disloyal Black deputies. “Every Black that I know, you need to fire him to start with, he’s a snake,” Greene stated. Several Black officers in leadership positions were later demoted or fired.
The North Carolina NAACP condemned the recording and demanded Greene’s resignation.
“His language is divisive, nasty, and offensive — his words are disparaging and hurtful to people of color. His actions have cast a cloud over his ability to execute the office with impartiality,” the NAACP said in a statement, according to The Associated Press.
In his defense, Greene accused Soles of having political motives for releasing the recording to the media. He didn’t deny making the comments but alleged that the recording was edited or altered.
The NAACP was not alone in condemning Greene’s remarks. “These allegations are deeply disturbing and if true, should disqualify anyone from serving in law enforcement,” Ford Porter, a spokesman for Gov. Roy Cooper, stated.
Fellow sheriffs across the state have also denounced Greene’s comments. The governing board of the North Carolina Sheriffs’ Association, which represents all 100 sheriffs in the state, voted Thursday night to hold a hearing on booting Greene from the organization. That prompted Greene to preemptively resign.