Interviews are nearing their end in the investigation into Mooresville Police Department’s working environment.
About 70 MPD employees – more than two-thirds the police force – interviewed with US ISS Agency to provide information for the investigation, probe participants say.
The public isn’t expected to be privy to the investigation results once they’re in, however. Citing concerns about that – and the fact that Chief Damon Williams hasn’t been placed on leave during the investigation – several MPD employees reached out to the Scoop in recent weeks, offering insight into what they shared with investigators.
Here’s the result of those interviews, in their own words:
MPD Employee 1
There have been talks of a coup, a walkout, a protest, knocking down doors and demanding answers. It’s embarrassing for us what we see internally going on. It has consumed us for two years.
Our concern is the rumors that go around after nothing is happening (at town board meetings). We have all been down to (ISS). If they don’t have enough evidence by now? We’re fearful nothing is going to happen to the chief, and we will face retaliation. If people are left in place on the command staff, it’s going to come back to bite those of us trying to finish our careers.
There’s no way you can run any organization with that attitude. There is zero respect above the level of captain. (Captains) Call, Cooke and Falzone: they’re the only ones there holding the sinking ship afloat.
Backbone is something the MPD doesn’t have.
It’s so frustrating with all the politics involved.
MPD Employee 2
We’re living with this nightmare every day. The atmosphere here is that none of us matter.
The chief brought his political agenda with him, and he’s been cramming it down our throats ever since. The agenda is hiring minorities, but he’s hiring unqualified people. There are lots of quality minority candidates; one taught me everything I know about policing … one of the finest cops I know was a minority. But this chief’s agenda is we’re-going-to-diversify now. I don’t have a problem with that, but bring us the best candidate. Unqualified hires based only on race diminishes the quality of service you’re going to get.
We’ve lowered our standards. Our field training operations program recently changed to a less strict, more lenient program. We have bad hires. And if they’re a bad hire, they’re not worthy of the job, and that puts us in a bad spot.
Standard training is 12 weeks, and it’s sometimes taking a lot longer for some people. Training to me is you either pass or fail. I’ve said it all along: ‘The climate is ripe. Somebody’s going to get hurt.’ And one of the best cops we’ve got was shot. If they got him, how about those that can hardly get out of their car without help?
Poor decisions come from people who shouldn’t be doing this job. And what does that do to morale? We walk around here on eggshells. In all my years, this is the worst I’ve ever seen it. The ones under the chief are yes men. People’s lives are at stake, and this police chief has zero experience, especially with 90 sworn officers.
MPD Employee 3
This investigation was launched on Feb. 20, and by Feb. 24, investigators had enough to put this chief on leave. It’s not right. There are a lot of things that are not right … and unethical … and allegedly maybe even illegal, and we can’t get any results out of the town manager’s office in particular. It’s unacceptable. They continuously kick this thing down the road.
I’m done. I can’t hold this off anymore. There’s texting and phone calls and meetings in the parking lot. I’m not going to be able to hold them back anymore.
I was skeptical when it was announced (that Damon Williams had been named police chief in 2016) just based on his years of experience in law enforcement. But we absolutely had to give the man a chance. Town leaders decided he was the most qualified candidate. We were all skeptical, but he came in with arms wide open.
From what I understand, the chief hasn’t been put on leave because the town couldn’t find an interim and the command staff is too weak. It’s very frustrating. The members of this command staff can’t make a decision to save their lives. You’ve got to be able to make a decision.
The chief and I don’t see eye-to-eye. I have trust issues with him.
MPD Employee 4
Anyone else who had done what this chief has done would have been placed on leave months ago. Since this investigation started, we’ve watched as people in power have started to nitpick every, single thing that everybody is doing around the police department … except the chief’s favorites. The people in power are so concerned that information is being shared, and the town is more concerned with who’s talking than about protecting the officers. If anybody found out who’s talking, we would be subjected to being fired and it would all be for just telling the truth. That’s all we’re doing.
The town is so concerned about who the next interim chief will be. The police will continue without anybody in that back hallway (where command staff is). Every person on the back hallway is scurrying around trying to make sure their job is okay.
If the town didn’t believe there’s a hostile work environment before, they better believe there’s one now.
MPD Employee 5
The command staff, including the deputy chief and majors, became part of the chief’s ineffective leadership by not challenging the chief’s unethical decisions. There has been a total failure of this command staff in holding the chief accountable.
This administration has lowered the standards of ethics and integrity within the MPD and created a toxic environment that has destroyed the morale of civilian and sworn employees within MPD. This has caused many valuable young officers to leave.
The current administration is based upon incompetent leadership and failure of command staff to hold this chief accountable to the standards of integrity and ethics that are expected at the MPD.
Why hasn’t the town manager fixed this problem?
MPD Employee 6
We have been working under incompetent leaders for the last few years who isolate themselves from the line officers. That incompetence was on full display in the aftermath of Jordan Sheldon’s murder. Yet after months of interviews by ISS, they are still in power.
MPD Employee 7
The atmosphere right now? I would describe it as nervousness. Our whole administrative staff and the lack of support we have from them: people are afraid to do their job and do it right. If I was to go out there and someone was to complain on me using force, I feel our administrative staff would do everything in their power to take it out on me as if I did something wrong. They don’t support the officers.
Look at all the good officers leaving – one is leaving after 10 years. They’re leaving because of the administrative staff and how shitty the environment is. They’re getting out of law enforcement altogether because they don’t want to chance getting involved in this again.
Nobody feels like command staff has their back. They don’t want confrontation. They won’t say, ‘You’re wrong. My officer is right.’
MPD Employee 8
He uses discriminatory promotional processes. He brings in his buddy who is less qualified and less experienced – a buddy that knows nothing about the community. There are positions created for certain officers. They’re just anointed. There are no job announcements. He chooses external candidates over internal veteran cops.
We’re lowering our standards. We’re supposed to have a 12-week training cycle. Now it’s training-’til-they-get-it. We’ve had three officers now that have trained for over six months.
We used to have a reputation of doing the right thing in Mooresville. Poor management and leadership have created a police department that isn’t what it was 10 years ago. There’s tension and division in the department now.
Of more than 100 graduates from Mitchell Community College’s BLET (Basic Law Enforcement Training), we’ve hired one graduate in the three years the chief has been here. The chief works with Central Piedmont Community College instead because he’s in thick with the director there.
The best way to represent your community from a diversity standpoint is to be as close to a mirror-image of the community as possible. It should be broken down right along the same lines. But that’s not what’s been happening here.
There was an officer that was recently at the range who shot through concrete. Two more loaded a 40-caliber pistol with 9 mm bullets. The gun malfunctioned. They’re lucky. It could have blown the gun up. That could have caused major problems. And they’re giving those people special positions. They show their incompetence, and we reward them with special positions.
MPD Employee 9
It seems that the chief plays a puppeteer and stirs the pot between officers. He refuses to follow the protocols set in place and seeks out officers to do his dirty work. The chief doesn’t even say hi to officers unless there is something he wants from them.
Employees are turning on each other because the chief is spreading gossip and creating racial divide. We were one, and he creates segregation. No one would be upset if any person gets a promotion, as long as they deserve it.
It seems the town has forgotten about the employees here at MPD. We are constantly told to wait for the conclusion of the investigation. The chief gets to do whatever he wants, and he is not held accountable to any standards. It is shameful.
It is amazing to have such a funny and charismatic leader – it’s too bad he is only like that for the public to see.
It’s shameful that an organization that prides itself on transparency and honor permits such unethical behaviors that looks poorly upon the town and its leaders. And it’s sad to see the injustice that is occurring to those who uphold justice. After such a tragedy, when everyone needs healing, why is it permissible to tear people apart?
MPD Employee 10
There’s a lack of leadership and experience on the command staff. You have people promoted several levels past their capabilities and people running a division when they’ve never worked in that particular field. Good leaders should have experience in multiple facets of the law enforcement world, and we don’t have that.
There have been more IAs (internal-affair investigations) under the chief and (Capt.) Peralta than there had probably been in years. Simple workplace issues that used to be handled by a supervisor are now turned into IAs. It feels like harassment.
They mess with people who they feel they can try to intimidate. Some people are called in for internal investigations for what seems like low-level, supervisory issues. That’s the point of having supervisors. Creating internal investigations out of very minor issues creates a large level of distrust and disconnect with the command staff.
MPD Employee 11
The atmosphere is very stressful and very divided. Leadership is lacking. Who you are, or are not, determines how you’re treated by certain people. Some people seem to have targets on their backs by certain command staff, and in turn, it seems (the command staff members) are trying to push those employees to the point of wanting to quit. Some days it’s like walking on eggshells because you don’t know if you are the next on their list. People you once thought you could trust are not trustworthy, after all.
MPD Employee 12
The current administration has turned this department from one of the finest in the state into a hostile battleground. Picture Survivor Island. Different groups all battling one another. Thanks to the ineptitude of the command staff, the department is like a plane without pilots, speeding towards a mountainside. This incompetent command staff is destroying the department from within, and town officials with authority to fix it either don’t care enough … or are too scared to fix it.