Tuesday, June 23, 2020

No Racism found in Probe of N. Hanover Police

An $30,000, 11-month investigation into allegations of racist behavior and language by the chief and sergeant of the New Hanover Police Department found no evidence to conform any of the claims, Supervisors Chairman Charles D. Garner Jr. reported Monday.

In a lengthy three-page statement read out loud, Garner outlined how the situation arose in July of last
year, and how the investigation initiated, after a complaint was filed by former officer Keith Youse and his wife Sandy, was conducted and the results it produced.

The investigator hired by the supervisors that same month, John Gonzales, was instructed to broaden his investigation after two news articles outlining broader behavior, were published in September.

In those articles, one of which was published in The Mercury on Sept. 30, Youse and another former officer, Dennis Psota, made allegations of racist comments and acts made by two former officers against Police Chief Kevin McKeon and Sergeant William Moyer.

Garner said Gonzales was given "extensive documents," closed circuit TV footage "of various locations with the township building, as well as unfettered access to township employees and any additional documents or records deemed to be relevant."

Garner said Gonzales "conducted as fair and thorough an investigation as he could," adding "unfortunately, one key witness refused to be interviewed, despite repeated attempts to schedule an interview."

Garner did not name that witness, although he did say it was the person who first discovered "the egg roll," see below.

In all, Gonzales conducted 30 interviews of 25 township employees during the course of his investigation, adding up to more than 135 hours of investigative work that cost the township more than $30,000.

The first complaint has come to be known as "the egg roll incident." When Youse went back to the township building for the last time to get a box with his personal belongings an egg roll was found on top.

Youse's wife Sandy is of Asian descent and both believed the egg roll's presence to have been meant as a racial slight.

However, who placed it there "was not able to be determined," Gerner said, adding that "there were several different possible explanations as to where the egg roll came from."

The second investigation involved general allegations of racist language and behavior in the police department.

Garner said Youse had alleged "supervisors within the police department had previously used racially derogatory language when referring to his family. He admitted that, even though he was a member of union leadership, he never reported any of this alleged behavior to anyone, including the board of supervisors or township administration, not did he submit an internal complaint of any kind under the township's zero-tolerance anti-harassment policies."

"Moreover, no witness could corroborate Mr. Youse's allegations in this regard, and some of his allegations were specifically contradicted by certain witnesses," said Garner.

Further, "there was no suggestion that any member of the New Hanover Police Department, including any supervisor, had ever acted in a racially discriminatory manner in the performance of their duties as sworn law enforcement officers, or in their dealings with any person, including any resident, township employee or member of the general public," said Garner.

Despite the fact that allegations were not confirmed, Garner said the board "is determined to take all measures within its power to maintain an environment that is free from discrimination of any kind. the township has directed a review of its existing policies and procedures which prohibit discrimination and harassment to ensure that they are up to date," said Garner.

"In addition, the township will be implementing additional and regular sensitivity and diversity training so that all employees are reminded of what is expected of them in this regard, as well as the consequences for failing to meet those expectations. The township will also provide targeted training for all supervisor employees to ensure that they are clean on the consequences for failing to ensure compliance with the township;s policies," said Garner.

He added that the board will also direct "a full review of police department policies and procedures, including the use of force."

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