Wilmington Healing After Three Racist Officers Fired

Wilmington Police Chief Donny Williams
Wilmington Police Chief Donny Williams

By Cash Michaels

July 6, 2020 1:16AM
Cash Michaels
Cash Michaels

After a dramatic week when three white veteran Wilmington police officers were unceremoniously fired after it was revealed they were caught on a recording making racist, derogatory, and undeniably threatening remarks regarding African-Americans, and what they wanted to do to them, citizens are left wondering, “Are there more?”

“I'm alarmed that these individuals were hired to "protect and serve” the same citizens they spoke about in a threatening and intimidating manner,” said Deborah Dicks Maxwell, president of the New Hanover County NAACP. “My concern is these are the three who were caught. How many more lurk behind the blue, not only at WPD, but across this state and nation?”

Wilmington Police Chief Donny Williams, lauded for taking the bold step of not only terminating the three officers on his first full day as the Port City’s permanent police chief (Williams is a 30-year veteran of WPD, and had served four months as interim before being officially named June 24th), but also displaying unusual transparency in revealing virtually every detail about just how vile and hideous the officers’ behavior was, says for now, the inadvertent police recordings only point to the three fired.

“Those are the only ones we could determine and prove,” Williams assured.

But if there are other current members of the Wilmington Police Department who are as disgruntled or racially biased as the three he kicked out the door last week, Chief Williams, an African-American, has a serious message for them.

“I’ll be honest…if any officer that’s out there has the same views that [those three officers displayed] they need to do me a favor, their sheriff, their patrol commander, whatever agency they work for …do us all a favor as law enforcement leaders, and leave the profession,” Williams said sternly. “We cannot tolerate that. There are no discriminatory biases allowed to exist in the law enforcement profession. We’re dealing with people, and we need to treat people fairly.”

“Fairly” is nowhere near how now former veteran officers Kevin Piner, James Gilmore and Jesse Moore II talked about treating Black people when they were caught on an accidentally activated patrol car video camera earlier this month spewing racial hate during two conversations.

A police sergeant, doing her job by routinely auditing patrol car video, discovered a June 4th taped conversation between Piner and Gilmore, and then Piner and Moore that so alarmed her, she alerted superiors. It wasn’t long before that concern made it all the way up to then Interim Chief Williams.

Per transcripts of the offending dialogue, not only was the n-word liberally used referring to Black Lives Matter demonstrators and Black police officers; but talk of a “civil war” between Blacks and whites coming and being “ready” for it.

“We are just gonna go out and start slaughtering them f****** n******. I can’t wait. God I can’t wait,” Piner told Moore, later adding that he plans to buy an assault rifle, “I’m ready.”

Piner strongly advocated for a nationwide civil war to “…wipe ‘em off the f****** map. That’ll put ‘em back about four or five generations.”

Moore apparently wasn’t at ease with Piner’s civil war talk, but a later taped conversation had Moore more energized about a Black female he arrested the day before, someone he freely demeaned as an n-word who needed “…a bullet in her head right then and move on. Let’s move the body out of the way and keep going.”

Moore also refers to a Black judge as a “f*****g negro magistrate.”

The officers also made negative reference to Chief Williams during their diatribes.

Once it was investigated, the officers hauled in and forced to admit to what they said, and then the city manager and City Council signed off on his decision, Williams decided he wasn’t having any of it.

There were “extensive violations of the department’s manual of rules and policies which include the standard of conduct, criticism, and use of inappropriate language,” the chief told reporters during a June 24th press conference.

He could have allowed them to just resign in disgrace. But no. Williams wanted the three officers fired, their behaviors fully exposed, their ability to work anywhere in Wilmington law enforcement or city government forever blocked, and past cases they testified in examined for probable racial bias and cleared.

He also notified the N.C. Criminal Justice Training and Standards Commission.

“[The conversations] were brutally offensive and deserved immediate attention,” Williams said, noting that Mayor Saffo and the City Council concurred with releasing all of the pertinent personnel information to the public. “When I first learned of these conversations, I was shocked, saddened, and disgusted. There is no place for this behavior in our agency or our city and it will not be tolerated.”

Police chiefs across the state agreed that Chief Williams did the right thing.

“What I’m most pleased about is how the city of Wilmington and it’s new police chief responded,” Colonel Glenn McNeil Jr., African American commander of the NC Highway Patrol, told the Raleigh-Apex NAACP during a June 27th Facebook interview.

At press time, whether the actual tapes of the conversations will be released had not yet been decided on by a judge.

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