The North Carolina sheriff who called his Black colleagues “bastards” and threatened to fire them when he took office in 2019 was suspended from office by a judge’s order on Tuesday.
Columbus County Sheriff Jody Greene, a Republican, has been temporarily removed from his position until a hearing determining whether he’ll be permanently removed is held, on Oct. 24. Greene’s suspension was requested by Columbus District Attorney Jon David Tuesday, and was granted by Superior Court Judge Douglas Sasser, as first reported by local NBC affiliate WECT.
The suspension follows several days of the Columbus County community demanding his resignation.
“There can be no question that the use of racist language, directed at all officers of color under your command, is conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice, which brings the Office of Sheriff into disrepute,” David, who’s also a Republican, wrote in his request. “My hope is that you recognize the harm your statements have caused and that you will make the honorable decision to resign.”
Greene made the comments in February 2019, just four months after he ran against the county’s first Black head of county law enforcement, former Sheriff Lewis Hatcher. The race was an extremely close one, with Greene winning by 34 votes. The tight election led to months of litigation to determine the winner, during which Greene suspected that Black members of the department he was elected to lead were trying to secretly undermine him with unspecified rumors.
Greene vented his frustrations over these rumors in phone calls to then interim Sheriff Jason Soles, who served as head of the sheriff’s office until a winner was determined.
“I’m sick of it. I’m sick of these Black bastards,” Greene told Soles during one six-and-a-half-minute conversation. “I’m going to clean house and be done with it. And we’ll start from there.”
“We’ll cut the snake’s head fucking off. Period,” Greene said, in reference to Sgt. Melvin Campbell, a Black officer he’d worked with for 30 years before joining the Columbus sheriff’s office. “And Melvin Campbell is as big a snake as Lewis Hatcher ever dared to be. Every Black that I know, you need to fire him to start with. He’s a snake.”
Greene didn’t realize Soles was recording the conversation.
“And I knew right then, I was like, ‘Wow, this is coming from the sheriff,’” Soles, who is challenging Greene for his seat this November, told WECT.
Last Wednesday, Greene adamantly denied having any racial animosity toward his fellow officers. The next day, he doubled down on the denial, signaling he had no plans to step down from his post, despite calls for his removal.
“I have not resigned as the Sheriff of Columbus County. I will continue to serve no matter the allegations or rumors,” he wrote Thursday.
The Columbus County Sheriff’s Office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The population of Columbus County is 30 percent Black, according to the U.S. Census. Both the North Carolina NAACP and the North Carolina American Civil Liberties Union called for Greene’s removal, as well as a review of all the work he’s done since taking office in 2019.
“Columbus County, and in particular its Black residents, deserve better,” the organizations said in a joint statement. “To restore dignity and confidence in the office of the Columbus County Sheriff, we demand a thorough investigation of all the activities conducted by his officers since the beginning of Sheriff Greene's tenure–by all relevant authorities—including the State Board of investigation and the federal government.”
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