An Entire North Carolina Town’s Police Department Was Just Suspended

An entire police department in a small coastal North Carolina town was suspended after its police chief and a Lieutenant on the force were arrested and charged with corruption. Police Chief Gary Smith, 46, and Lieutenant Michael Christian Simmons, 48, of the Southport Police Department were fingerprinted on Thursday, finding themselves in the awkward position of being on the other side of the law.

After the two were arrested, city officials suspended the entire town’s Police Department – which only consisted of six other officers who were placed on leave – and the Brunswick County Sheriff’s Office was asked to assume all law enforcement functions until further notice, Mayor Jerry Dove told WECT.

Brunswick County District Attorney Jon David said that Smith and Simmons had a “habitual and repeated pattern” of abandoning their police posts to work at a trucking company. The pair would work overnight shifts for the local trucking company while claiming to work for the Southport Police Department.

David explained that the two men would leave Southport and travel out of state at times. Smith and Simmons were charged with obtaining property by false pretense. In addition, Smith faces charges of willful failure to discharge duties and obstruction of justice.

All of the officers at the department were not complicit in this scheme. In fact, some of the officers were whistleblowers.

“A lot of these officers have done absolutely nothing wrong. Some of them are the ones that first came forward,” David said. “This stain should not be extended to the officers who take seriously their duty to serve and protect.”

On Thursday morning, Smith was taken into custody and booked into the Brunswick County Detention Center under a $10,000 unsecured bond. Later, he was released after posting bail.

During Thursday afternoon’s news conference to announce the results of the investigation, Simmons was taken into custody.

Multiple search warrants were executed Thursday at the police department, town hall, and the trucking company, according to the news outlet.

Southport has a population of about 3,625 residents.

Image via National Police Car archives.