The entire Kenly Police Department resigned on Thursday in protest of newly hired city manager Justine Jones. Officers reportedly accused the manager of creating a “hostile work environment” and said it prevented them from carrying out their duties.
The official announcement of the sweeping decision came in a Facebook post from Kenly Police Chief Josh Gibson. He shared that he had already submitted his two-week notice alongside the entire department, including Deputy City Manager Sharon Evans and Utilities Clerk Christy Jones:
WRAL also obtained a copy of Gibson’s official resignation letter presented to Jones. In the letter, the former, who served in the department for 21 years, called himself the “longest-serving chief” in the region.
He also mentioned that his force had made “substantial progress” in dealing with unspecified “ups and downs” of late, but claimed progress was no longer possible:
“However, due to the hostile work environment in the city of Kenly, I don’t think progress is possible.”
Unlike Gibson’s social media posts, his letter did not directly mention Jones as the primary reason for the decision. The document also refrained from outlining the specific grievances behind the action.
WRAL also reported that Gibson would reconsider his decision to leave the department if the city manager is removed. The publication noted that other employees also cited a “hostile”, “toxic” and stressful work environment as the reason for their resignation.
Reports suggest that Kenly, a small town in North Carolina and home to about 2,000 residents, finds itself with just three part-time officers in its police force. However, Johnston County Sheriff Steve Bizzell reportedly said his office would protect area residents.
City Manager Justine Jones has yet to address the situation and told WRAL she was “not free to speak due to a personal issue”. Meanwhile, attorney Chip Hewett said the city decided to hold an emergency meeting on Friday to discuss public safety issues.
Explore Kenly Town Location
Kenly is a city in the state of North Carolina, located in Johnston and Wilson counties, approximately 72 km southeast of Raleigh. The city lies primarily in eastern Johnston County with a small portion extending into the southwestern part of Wilson County.
Church Street or US Route 301 serves as the main route through downtown and leads northeast 15 miles to Wilson and southwest 14 miles to Smithfield. Second Street or North Carolina Highway 222 crosses US 301 and turns northwest 13 miles to Emit and southeast 9 miles to Fremont.
Interstate 95 runs along the northwest of the city and leads northeast 33 miles to Rocky Mount and southwest 58 miles to Fayetteville.
The city was named after John R. Kenly, who served as superintendent of the North Atlantic Division of the Atlantic Coast Railroad and became president of the railroad in 1913.
According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 1.6 square miles, consisting of 1,609 acres of water. According to Data USA, the area had a population of 1.8K in 2019, with a median age of 39.6 and a median household income of $21,455.
The site notes that the five largest ethnic groups in the city are African American (non-Hispanic) (36.1%), white (non-Hispanic) (35.7%), white (Hispanic) (9.88%) , two+ (non-Hispanic). Hispanic) (7.4%) and Other (Hispanic) (6.61%).
It also reports that 94.3% of the city’s residents are US citizens, and no household speaks a language other than English at home as their primary language.