Sheriff Threatened to Fire All His Black Officers in Racist Tirade Caught on Tape

“Fuck them Black bastards... it’s just time to clean them out.”
Sheriff Threatened to Fire All His Black Officers in Racist Tirade Caught on Tape
Sheriff Jody Greene (Columbus County Sheriff’s Office)

Just a few months after narrowly defeating the first Black sheriff in Columbus County, North Carolina, sheriff-elect Jody Greene went on a racist, paranoid tirade about his Black staff members in a phone call to the then-interim sheriff, calling them “bastards” and threatening to fire them all.

“Fuck them Black bastards,” Greene said during a phone call with then-interim chief Jason Soles back in February 2019. “They think I’m scared? They’re stupid. I don’t know what else to do with them, so it’s just time to clean them out.”

The audio, first obtained by NBC affiliate WECT, was captured by Soles, who told the outlet that he documented these calls because of the alarming language Greene had used. Only now, as Soles prepares to run against Greene for his seat, has the state Bureau of Investigation begun looking into the phone calls.

North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation’s public information director confirmed to VICE News Thursday that District Attorney Jon David requested that the agency investigate allegations of obstruction of justice concerning the Columbus County Sheriff’s Office this week.

During the calls, Greene expressed his suspicions that one of the department’s Black officers was leaking unspecified information about him to then-Sheriff Lewis Hatcher. At the time, Greene was still embroiled in the aftermath of the tight election, which he won by a margin of just 34 votes. As a winner was still being determined, Soles had been named interim sheriff.

Soles told WECT that during this time, Greene called him regularly. It was during one of these calls that the sheriff-elect went on his racist rant. In the recordings, Greene can be heard telling the interim sheriff that he hated Black Democrats, didn’t trust the Black detention officer in the sheriff’s office, and would fire people who were “guilty by association” of supposedly leaking information about him.

“I’m sick of it. I’m sick of these Black bastards,” Greene told Soles. “I’m going to clean house and be done with it. And we’ll start from there.”

“There’s a snitch in there somewhere tellin’ what we are doing,” he said during another call. “And I’m not gonna have it. I’m not going to have it.”

Greene also disparaged Melvin Campbell, a Black sergeant in the sheriff’s office who had worked under Greene for 30 years at the North Carolina Highway Patrol.

Advertisement

“We’ll cut the snake’s head f**king off. Period,” Greene said. “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.”

Soles told WECT that he began recording the conversation as soon as he heard Greene begin to disparage Black members of the office.

“And I knew right then, I was like, ‘Wow, this is coming from the sheriff,’” Soles told the outlet.

Greene’s victory was already marred by controversy at the time. In the weeks that followed the inconclusive election results, the then-sheriff-elect suggested an officer from the Whiteville Police Department be appointed interim sheriff. At the time, Hatcher refused, citing that the officer, Whiteville Deputy Chief Aaron Herring, had been arrested and charged for punching a Black man who was handcuffed in the face three years prior. While Herring was eventually found not guilty, Hatcher worried that the county, which is 30 percent Black, would reject the appointment.

Much of what Greene promised to do came to pass: The two Black officers on the county sheriff’s command staff were demoted, and one of them was eventually fired.

Soles, who is now running against Greene in November, said that he brought the story to both the governor’s office and the attorney general’s office, but the recordings are only now being looked at by the State Bureau of Investigation for possible obstruction of justice.

“This is an ongoing investigation, no additional information is available at this time,” the Bureau said in an email.

In a lengthy statement posted on the sheriff’s office’s Facebook page Wednesday evening, Greene maintained that his former election opponent had been spreading false rumors about him in the aftermath of the 2018 election, and that the conversations heard in the recordings were somehow altered to create a misleading representation of him. He also accused Soles of being an officer with “poor performance” who is now trying to run a smear campaign just weeks ahead of his election in November.

Greene also outright denied any bigotry on his part.

“I adamantly deny any racial intent or actions on my part,” he wrote. “I acknowledge there were racial tensions during the 2018 certification of the election and that the media and some members in the community were referring to the two political sides as black and white. And I also acknowledge that I use expletive language but deny using it with malice intent.”

Want the best of VICE News straight to your inbox? Sign up here.