Emails indicate division in Selma police force

Published 10:09 am Thursday, August 1, 2019

A string of emails between a group of Selma Police Department (SPD) officers and department leadership shows officers with a mountain of concerns, many of which were illustrated in a letter supplied, alongside the email chain, to the Selma City Council for its closed meeting with officers Monday.

The letter, adorned with the City of Selma Police Department letterhead, requests a meeting with leadership to discuss “some serious issues that have already been a problem,” as well as “new issues that have come about.”

The letter notes that the department has recently had “some administrative changes” and a discussion is needed between the officers and those that lead the department to “take a look at the structure of the department.”

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The letter lays out a few specific concerns on the officers’ collective minds, including “supervisors,” “the covering of shifts,” “departmental programs” and “revamping” the department’s Standard Operating Procedures (SOP), which the letter describes as outdated.

“We understand that there are a lot of moving parts because of the recent administrative changes, but that should not be an excuse for officers not to have a group of leaders that have the capabilities of coming up with a strategic daily operational plan in the absence of executive orders,” the letter states. “We are not asking, but begging for a leader to emerge and stand up for what’s right, even if they stand alone.”

Attached to the letter were four pages of emails between an account listed only as “We the Officers of Selma” and various higher-ups within the department requesting a meeting with leadership.

The initial request for a meeting went out at just before 9 p.m. on Tuesday, July 23, and SPD Lt. Kenta Fulford was the first to respond shortly before 8 a.m. the following morning, stating that he would clear his schedule to be available for the meeting.

The request garnered little response and, just before midnight Friday, “We the Officers of Selma” sent out a follow-up email bemoaning the lack of response and reiterating its intention to meet with superiors at 5 p.m. Monday.

“We hope that all pride is out of the window and we are able to discuss the issues that are in this department,” the email stated.

Just before noon the following day, Saturday, July 27, the officers sent out another email “requesting a meeting with all of the supervisors” in the department, adding that they had not included sergeants in the initial email because they should have been informed by captains or lieutenants within the department.

SPD Sgt. Nathan Gibson responded to the Saturday email expressing his intention to be present for the meeting.

At 5 p.m. that Sunday, SPD Cpt. Johnny King responded, saying that he would be happy to meet with the officers, provided it had been cleared through their chain of command and he knew all the parties that would be in attendance for the meeting.

He stated that he was on vacation from July 29 until August 2, adding later in the response that he had been out of state, so he would not be able to make the proposed Monday meeting – he added that he planned to speak with incoming SPD Interim Chief Robert Green, who takes the reins at the department effective Aug. 1, and encouraged the officers to “stay strong.”

“I’m going to work hard to get every officer what they need to work with,” King said in the email. “If we stay together and do what’s right, I promise you that good things are coming.”

Within just over an hour and a half, the “We the Officers of Selma” account responded, saying that they had not requested a meeting with Green, since “he is not a part of the problem,” and taking King to task over assertions made in his response.

“You are not out of town, you are here in Selma, and if you think that [little] of fixing these problems, that shows us that you really do not care about what’s best for this department,” the response to King read. “You should be a leader, but you are not showing us any leadership at all.”

Shortly thereafter, the “We the Officers of Selma” account sent out another email to all supervisors and other officers so that there would “not be any misunderstandings for anyone” and clarified that, despite rumors, there would not be a walk-out in the coming days.

It is unclear if council members were able to allay some of the officers’ concerns or reach a solution during Monday’s closed-door meeting – Selma City Council President Corey Bowie has so far not responded to multiple requests for comment.