State Watch

North Carolina police chief on leave after helping officers skirt COVID-19 regulations

A police officer in front of a police car

An Oakboro, N.C. police chief was placed on unpaid for reportedly telling officers how to skirt COVID-19 regulations, CBS affiliate WBTV reported

Oakboro Police Department Chief TJ Smith was placed on a two-week leave which started on Tuesday, according to the television station.

Oakboro Town Administrator Doug Burgess informed Smith of his punishment via letter, writing that the chief violated the town’s personnel policy which prohibits acts of fraud, endangering the property of others and serving a conflicting interest. 

Burgess said in the letter that Smith told fellow colleagues to attend a “clinic” where they could obtain COVID-19 vaccination cards without getting the actual vaccine, according to WBTV. 

“Based on my review of all information available and provided that relate to your failures in personnel conduct, I am placing you on unpaid leave for two calendar weeks,” Burgess’s letter reads. 

Burgess also placed Smith on six-month probation, WBTV reported. 

In a statement, Smith apologized for his actions, saying, “I’m owning that. It was a mistake, and I shared misinformation. That’s true. I wanted to say something about this before now, but with everything going on, it was best that I wait for the investigative process to conclude.

“I didn’t profit from it. I couldn’t possibly profit from it, and I didn’t do it from a place of malice,” he added. “I care deeply about others, and I sincerely appreciate that I have a job that allows me to serve them and to see things improve in my community.”

Burgess said further violations would lead to discipline up to eventual dismissal from the police department, adding that Smith has the right to appeal, WBTV noted.

Tags COVID-19 vaccination cards North Carolina Oakboro

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