Wednesday, June 19, 2024

Southport considers hiring outside firm to investigate police department

The city has put its Police Chief and top lieutenant on unpaid leave, but continues to pay seven inactive officers.

Southport now has seven officers on paid leave. Chief Gary Smith and Lieutenant Michael Simmons are on unpaid leave following their arrests. Two other officers left in the weeks leading up to those arrests. (Port City Daily photo | Johanna Ferebee)
Southport now has seven officers on paid leave. Chief Gary Smith and Lieutenant Michael Simmons are on unpaid leave following their arrests. Two other officers left in the weeks leading up to those arrests. (Port City Daily photo | Johanna Ferebee)

SOUTHPORT — The City of Southport will not consider reinstating its police force at this week’s meeting, but will consider hiring an outside firm to conduct an investigation into the police department.

The Southport Police Department was effectively shuttered after Chief Gary Smith and Lieutenant Michael Simmons were arrested last month.

Today Smith and Simmons were indicted by a Brunswick County grand jury on felony corruption charges; Simmons was also charged with an additional count of obtaining property under false pretenses.

Smith and Simmons were put on unpaid leave last week. The rest of the department is still being paid, despite being sidelined while Brunswick County Sheriff’s deputies patrol the city.

According to information provided by City Clerk Michele Windham, Southport Police Department usually employs 11 officers.

Two of those officers recently left the force, one in June, and a second just three days before the arrest of Smith and Simmons. The cost to pay the remaining officers is approximately $810 a day.

Southport’s Board of Alderman will not consider reinstating those seven officers at this week’s regular meeting, but it will consider launching an internal investigation into the department, according to City Manager Bruce Oakley.

“There may be a brief update of the status (no change),” Oakley said. “I will make a recommendation to hire a firm to conduct an internal audit of the department.”

Southport Mayor Jerry Dove declined to comment on the situation, saying only he would provide updates through Oakley.


Send comments and tips to Benjamin Schachtman at ben@localvoicemedia.com, @pcdben on Twitter, and (910) 538-2001.

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