Mayor Perkins addresses decision to place SPD Chief on leave

Published 4:37 pm Wednesday, May 1, 2024

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Selma Mayor James Perkins outlined the reasons for placing Selma Police Chief Kenta Fulford on Wednesday. 

At a press conference in the council chambers, Perkins said the two recent shootings involving juveniles near Selma High School last weekend were the latest in a series of incidents that forced him to make a decision. Perkins said Fulford will get his due process with the City Council in the future. He informed the city council of the decision around 4:30 p.m. Tuesday. Assistant Chief Natasha Fowlkes will assume leadership duties of the SPD.

In light of the serious public safety problems and concerns we are facing here in Selma, I hope that the city council will agree that it really is time for change,” Perkins said.

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Two teens were shot on April 26 at the 1500 block of Marie Foster Street. A 17-year-old teen was critically injured in a shooting an 18-year-old was shot in the foot at the same block on April 27.

Selma City Schools Superintendent Dr. Zickeyous Byrd placed Selma High School and Selma Virtual Academy Monday on virtual learning. 

“Fulford sent texts to Councilwoman Lesia James, Councilman Troy Harvill and school board member Tanya Miles, that the school can start back,” Perkins said. “Fulford indicated that he and the police officers met and have a plan in place. Dr. Byrd reported out to the media that we have received assurance from the Selma Police Department of increased police presence at both campuses for the remainder of the year.”

Perkins said Fulford told Byrd that SPD officers would be on SHS campus the next day. Perkins said he arrived on campus between 8:30 and 9 a.m., he saw no officers.

‘’Representatives of the school system indicated when schools started on Tuesday morning, there were no Selma police officers at the school. I decided to go to Selma High. And at that time there was no Selma police present, but the Dallas County Sheriff Office and deputy chief had been called because the Selma police officers were considered a no-show. The only reason the school system decided to open school was because the chief made the commitment to provide needed coverage.’’

Perkins said Fulford and some SPD officers eventually arrived around 9 a.m.

“The chief, the assistant chief and an unknown number of officers showed up, surrounded the school, blocking all entranceways and posting officers inside the school because of a terrorist threat,” Perkins said.

SCS did virtual learning for the rest of the week.

“It shows the broken communications between the school system and the police department, and also shows frustrations surrounding numerous cries for help about school system leadership and the failure of the civil police department to respond to the concerns of the school system,” Perkins said. 

Perkins placed Fulford on administrative leave last year, but the city council eventually reinstated him. Perkins said that the city council undermines his administration. 

“My only option was to either turn a blind eye to these critical issues or to expose the issues so that everyone can see you can see them, and decide for yourselves,” Perkins said. “I decided to expose the issues because at the end of the day, you elected me to fix broken systems. And many of you think that I have the controlling authority to fix this problem, but it is the position of this city council that they must control the administration and not work with the administration.” 

Selma City Councilman Clay Carmichael disputes Perkins’ decision to discipline Fulford.

‘Chief was placed on administrative leave without ever having been written up about the issue previously,” Carmichael said. “It’s a poor decision that’s emotionally charged, and unfortunately a municipal government cannot act in this manner. I will continue to ask that the mayor use his statutory authority that requires him to supervise and discipline in a moral, legal, and ethical way. Further, Progressive discipline means actions must be in writing and acknowledged, then the employee must fail and be written up again before any discipline is taken. This is standard for holding employees accountable, and we have not yet seen the first of it in this relationship.”

LeMarkus A. Snow of Snow’s Cleaning Service disagreed with the move to put Fulford on administrative leave.

“The City needs a leader on command post,” Snow said. “This could cause other officers to go on strike or even quit. We don’t need separation within our Police force at this time. They are shooting in broad daylight now killing kids, mothers, sons, daughters, and grandmothers so we must come up with a resolution to keep Public Safety cool calm, and collective. But we have an Executive and Legislative Branch that must come together to resolve differences and reach the right resolution. Chief Fulford is a great man of honor in and outside of uniform. We have a great Mayor and Selma City Council but we all have to come together as one.”

Perkins said the move is not dismissing Fulford, but reassigning him within the SPD.

“Termination is not the issue,” Perkins said. “In situations such as this, the chief would go back to his ranked position within the department. There is no termination involved in this disciplinary action. Please understand that I have done my very best to address these issues without bringing any public embarrassment to the city. But the way this city council micromanages, the mayor’s office makes it impossible for me to quietly handle these issues any longer.’’