Mooresville Police Department Chief Damon Williams, who is currently on paid administrative leave, appeared at a town meeting of the NAACP’s Mooresville South Iredell chapter Thursday.
Led by chapter president Curtis Johnson, the meeting’s intent was to provide members and the greater community with details and findings on an NAACP investigation into Williams’ administrative leave – an organizational investigation launched at the state level. He claimed there is existing division in the police department and the town – a sentiment shared by several remarks during the meeting.
Williams noted how difficult the ongoing situation has been for his wife and family.
“My integrity means more to me than anything else and some of the things that I’ve seen come out, some of the rumors that I’ve not addressed, have been hurtful,” Williams said. “… It’s hurtful to me that some of those that wear the badge spread those rumors … People that know me and know my character, thank you.”
He continued, “I still feel responsible for them (at MPD). And their safety … will always be at the forefront of what I hope for the best.”
Williams was placed on administrative leave by Town of Mooresville officials June 3 following claims of a hostile work environment at MPD. He remains on leave pending an ongoing formal, third-party investigation by U.S. ISS Agency of Huntersville. The action was taken upon the completion of approximately 70 interviews by a third-party agency investigating claims of a hostile work environment at the police department, according to previous Mooresville Tribune reporting. Former Interim Town Manager Ryan Rase previously told the Tribune that the investigation could be completed in early August.
Williams talked about his history with the department, and the role he saw for himself.
“I’ve been a police officer for almost 15 years and you get wrapped up in the job,” said Williams during the meeting at Reid’s Memorial Presbyterian Church. “I’ve been off now for two months. I’ve rediscovered my own family.”
Williams said he was not at the local meeting to address the “situation” at hand as he spoke highly of MPD Deputy Chief Gerald Childress and other officers, reiterating the need for prayers following tragedy only months ago when Officer Jordan Sheldon was killed in the line of duty.
“My job when I was here was to bring everyone together,” said Williams. “Ultimately, I took the oath to keep all of you safe and I take that oath very seriously.”
He later continued, “I still feel responsible for them [at MPD]. And their safety … will always be at the forefront of what I hope for the best.”
Williams departed the church podium to a standing ovation.
“You are still our chief” Johnson said.
Amos McClorey, district deputy and Cabarrus County Chapter president, noted that the NAACP investigation, thus far, “has led to no answers other than it’s a personnel matter.” McClorey cited difficulties scheduling a meeting with Mooresville town officials, including Mayor Miles Atkins, until recently.
The Mooresville South Iredell NAACP continues its investigation as it awaits a meeting with Atkins and other officials, McClorey said.
“It will be very soon,” he said, noting that dialogue across the table was necessary. “There are things we’d like to know.”
Amid local demographic updates, prayers and an encouragement to vote in this fall’s municipal elections, several members of the regional and state NAACP shared remarks. Speakers carried an overall sentiment of injustice as they discussed Williams and related matters, including the Mooresville Fire-Rescue, a lack of minorities in local government administration and mounting race relations across the area.
But the primary focus, both deliberately and among speaker comments, remained on Williams’ role and actions as chief of the MPD.
Said McClorey, “You don’t be straight for 15 years then go crooked … They should be relishing this guy and keeping him here. We had one of the good guys as the chief.”
As to Williams, McClorey added later in his remarks, “We think you are one of the top law enforcement officers in North Carolina and for that to be a (leave) put on your record, we don’t think should have ever happened in the first place.
“Chief Williams, the NAACP still stands behind you.”