For the past four years, the sheriff’s department in a rural town in Columbus County, North Carolina, has been run by a white man whose visceral hatred for Black people apparently became so overwhelming that it eventually exploded out of him like cotton from a lacerated stuffed animal. (And, judging from reports, it wouldn’t be surprising if he ordered his Black employees to pick that cotton.)
Here’s how the story began, according to WECT 6:
On one end of the phone was Columbus County Sheriff Jody Greene. On the other was then-Captain Jason Soles, who had just been tapped to lead the Sheriff’s Office while elections officials investigated a complaint questioning whether Greene was eligible to serve as sheriff.
Greene wanted to know who in the department had communicated with Lewis Hatcher, the former sheriff whom Greene had narrowly defeated in the election, and Melvin Campbell, a recently-fired sergeant, both of whom are African-American. In Greene’s words, they had a “snitch” in the office, leaking information to his political opponent who had sued to be reinstated until the election protests were resolved.
“I’m sick of it. I’m sick of these black bastards,” said Greene said to Soles. “I’m going to clean house and be done with it. And we’ll start from there.”
The call between Greene and Soles took place about two months into what was a tumultuous start to Greene’s career as sheriff. Greene beat Hatcher in the 2018 election by just 34 votes, at a time when election fraud in this rural part of North Carolina was making national headlines. The results were protested, in part over concerns Greene did not actually live in Columbus County as required by state law. He’d also been improperly sworn in before the state certified the election results.
Little did Greene know that the “snitch” he should have been looking out for was the very man he was talking to. But Soles didn’t start keeping tabs on the newly elected sheriff with the Klan-like tendencies because he was suspected of being another conservative committing the election fraud conservatives are always going on about. Soles appeared to be concerned that Columbus County’s new sheriff is the most bigoted Greene in the southeast whose name isn’t also Marjorie Taylor.
“This one particular phone call that I received, he made the comment that he hated Democrats,” Soles, who is now running against Greene for Columbus County Sheriff, told WETC. “And then he said, ‘I take that back. I hate a black f***ing Democrat.’ And, and I knew right then, I was like, ‘Wow, this is coming from the sheriff.’ And, I had to start recording those conversations.”
But the sheriff with the Jim Crow fetish reportedly did more than just go off on tangents that prove he would have made a better grand wizard than a law enforcement officer—he also began demoting and firing damn near every Black face in sight as soon as he started his new job.
More from WETC:
Since taking office, Sheriff Jody Greene has made some significant changes to his staff. When Sheriff Hatcher was in charge, there were two African-Americans on his command staff: Lt. Jeremy Barber and Captain Clementine Thompson. Green demoted Thompson within days of taking office, and cut her pay by $10,000. She was later fired. Barber, formerly the department’s lead detective, was demoted to the civil division. Greene’s command staff, made up of his highest ranking officers, no longer has any minorities.
And here’s what Greene said in the February 2019 phone call Soles recorded:
“They’re gone. This is as fair as I’m going to be. Just giving you a heads up, that’s coming. When me and [attorney] Boyd [Worley] and [wife] Angie [Greene] go through it tomorrow, the first numbers we see, they’re gone. They ain’t going to make it brother. I’m telling you, they might as well find somewhere else to go. Because if you ain’t with me – I ain’t referring to you – but if they’re not with me, they’re against me. And they’re gone. And that’s just how it’s going to be. Clarity – whatever her name is, I don’t trust her. Dawn says she’s racist… If I have to fire every mother f***er out there, guess what? I’m tired of them f***ing with me. It ain’t happening no more. No godd**n more. So you let them know, if I find their numbers in the next day or two, they ain’t going to like it. They damn sure ain’t going to like it. And that’s got to be somebody in the command staff. Clarity. I don’t trust her. She’s just sitting there staring at me the other day, the whole time. Staring at me the whole f**ing time.” Greene was reportedly referring to Augustine Clarida, who was a Black detention officer at the time.
“Tomorrow’s gonna be a new f**king day. I’m still the motherf**king sheriff, and I’ll go up and fire every godd**n [inaudible]. F**k them Black bastards. They think I’m scared? They’re stupid,” Greene continued. “I don’t know what else to do it. So it’s just time to clean them out. There’s a snitch in there somewhere tellin’ what we are doing. And I’m not gonna have it. I’m not going to have it. We’ll cut the snake’s head f**king off. Period. And Melvin Campbell is as big a snake as Lewis Hatcher ever dared to be. Every Black that I know, you need to fire him to start with, he’s a snake.”
In the years since the phone call was recorded, Soles has been trying to figure out how to use the recording to oust the sheriff who would likely replace his handcuffs with nooses if it were up to him. Soles said he brought the recording to the attention of County Commissioners during a recess at a county commission meeting, but most of the commissioners are supporters of Greene, so no dice there. Eventually, Columbus County District Attorney Jon David got ahold of the recording and “formally requested that the SBI investigate allegations of Obstruction of Justice by the Columbus County Sheriff’s Office,” WECT reported.
When WECT confronted Greene with the recording, the sheriff denied saying the things he said, but on Wednesday, he posted a statement on the Columbus County Sheriff’s Office Facebook page admitting that he used racist language but denied any racist intent. (I mean, how could we not take “I hate Black people” as a term of endearment?)
Greene also said he would cooperate with the investigation. Honestly, the fact that it took four years for an investigation to happen reminds us how easy it is for racist cops to remain in a position of power. Now is a good time to mention that Columbus County is 30% Black.