A North Carolina sheriff was recorded calling Black employees by derogatory names and saying they should be fired. Several Black officers in leadership positions were later demoted or fired.
On Wednesday, NBC affiliate WECT-TV published the recording allegedly of Sheriff Jody Greene using racist language while referencing Black deputies who he believed are only loyal to the previous sheriff, Lewis Hatcher, who is Black. Greene narrowly defeated Hatcher, the first Black sheriff in Columbus County in 2018. Greene beat Hatcher by just 34 votes.
“F–k them Black bastards,” Greene said in February 2019 during a phone call with then-interim chief Jason Soles. “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.”
Greene was also recorded as saying: “Every Black that I know, you need to fire… him to start with, he’s a snake.”
In a statement issued on the Columbus County Sheriff Facebook page, Greene claimed that the recording of the February 2019 phone call obtained by the NBC affiliate, had been edited. Greene has not denied in the statement that he was on the call or that he made the statements. He admitted that he used racist language but denied any racist intent.
WECT also reported that two Black officers were in the previous sheriff’s group of high-ranking officers but were fired, as well as a lieutenant was demoted after Greene was sworn in. Another Black sergeant said he was fired shortly after Greene was elected. The news outlet reported that several Black deputies appear to remain in the sheriff’s office in positions below the level of command staff.
The timing of the release of the almost seven minute-long 2019 recordings has raised some eyebrows. The audio was captured by then-intern chief Jason Soles. Soles told WECT he documented the calls because of the alarming language Greene had used.
Soles is now running against Greene for his seat.
The State Bureau of Investigation has launched an investigation into the recordings.