3 Wilmington police officers fired after racist ‘brutally offensive’ conversations caught on video, chief says

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WILMINGTON, N.C. — Three Wilmington police officers are out of the job after the officers were caught on video having “brutally offensive” conversations, according to the Wilmington Police Department.

The police department announced the firing of Officer James Gilmore, Corporal Jesse Moore II and Officer Kevin Piner during a news conference Wednesday.

Chief Donny Williams said in a statement that the department discovered “extensive violations of the department’s manual of rules and policies including the department’s standard of conduct, criticism and use of inappropriate language.”

A supervisor was running a routine inspection of in-car camera video from Officer Piner’s patrol car.

In the video, the supervisor discovered conversations between Piner and Gilmore, as well as Piner and Moore.

“The conversations included disrespectful language, hate-filled speech and referred to black people as the ‘N’ word,” Williams said. “They also criticized me, several black officers within the agency and made negative comments about individuals outside of the agency. They made negative comments about the Black Lives Matter protests and were critical of our response. The 46 minute and 12 second conversations were brutally offensive and deserved immediate action.”

Williams said that he has recommended that the three officers should not be eligible for rehire at the City of Wilmington, and chief plans to notify the North Carolina Criminal Justice Training and Standards Commission.

The chief called this “the most exceptional and difficult case I have encountered in my career.”

Gilmore was hired in July 1997, Moore was hired in May 1997 and Piner was hired in March 1998.

Chief Williams full statement is included below:

Today is a challenging day for me because as your new police chief – one of my first major tasks is to announce the termination of three veteran police officers for misconduct. While terminating an employee is never easy – there are times when it is extremely necessary. And so today with the concurrence of our City Council and at the direction of City Manager Sterling Cheatham we will be releasing a summary of the internal investigation of these three officers, including their termination letters, written comments from me including directives for corrective action and other information that is public under state personnel laws.

Why are we releasing this information this way and at this time?  Because it is the right thing to do.  Normally, personnel laws allow only a very small amount of information to be made public.  However, in exceptional cases, when it is essential to maintain public confidence in the administration of the City and the Police Department, more information may be released.  This is the most exceptional and difficult case I have encountered in my career.  We must establish new reforms for policing here at home and throughout this Country.

Yesterday, we officially terminated Officer James Gilmore, Corporal Jesse Moore, II, and Officer Kevin Piner as a result of an internal investigation that uncovered extensive violations of the department’s manual of rules and policies including the department’s standard of conduct, criticism and use of inappropriate language.

The investigation started as a result of a supervisor’s routine inspection of video from Officer Piner’s in-car camera. After a review of the video the supervisor discovered two conversations that Officer Piner had, one with Officer Gilmore and the other with Corporal Jesse Moore, II. The conversations included disrespectful language, hate-filled speech and referred to black people as the “N” word.  They also criticized me, several black officers within the agency and made negative comments about individuals outside of the agency. They made negative comments about the Black Lives Matter protests and were critical of our response. The 46 minute and 12 second conversations were brutally offensive and deserved immediate action. You will find more details about the investigation in the public documents we are releasing today.

As a result I have recommended that neither officer be eligible for rehire at the City of Wilmington. We will also notify the North Carolina Criminal Justice Training and Standards Commission of their behavior. This commission determines whether or not an officer can maintain their state certification. We will also consult with the District Attorney’s Office regarding their suitability as a witness, any bias they may have shown towards criminal defendants and potential criminal charges.

There are certain behaviors that one must have in order to be a police officer and these three officers have demonstrated that they do not possess it. When I first learned of these conversations, I was shocked, saddened and disgusted. There is no place for this behavior in our agency or our city and it will not be tolerated.

Our agency is hurting today because individuals who we believed honored their oath of office violated it and ripped at the very fabric of our family. Please pray for us as we heal and become better because of this challenge. Please don’t judge our officers based on the conduct of a few. We have great officers who work for our agency and I proudly stand with them and beside them.

In an effort to heal, I have put together a plan to move forward from this.

o          I will be meeting with every employee at the WPD during the month of July.

o          We will engage in mandatory Implicit Bias training throughout the agency

o          We will launch a cultural education series through small group dialogues

o          We will include citizens on police hiring boards

o          We will increased community engagement opportunities

o          And I will assist our council with the exploration of a Citizen Review Board

Lastly, we will be filing a petition in which we will ask the Court to review whether or not some or all of the video in this case should be released.  The law requires that a judge make that determination and we will support the judiciary by bringing the matter before the Court and supplying any information or other documents that Court may desire.

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