Police chief has been suspended after he reportedly told officers that they could obtain fake COVID vaccination cards at a purported self-vaccination clinic without actually getting inoculated. The investigation alleged that he reportedly told officers and troopers there was a vaccination clinic where they would be given a syringe to go in a bathroom to self-inject or dispose of the Coronavirus vaccine. The police chief allegedly said there was an arrangement with a pharmacist and that either way, the officers would receive a vaccination card.
Police Chief TJ Smith of the OPD from North Carolina was determined by Town Administrator Doug Burgess to have violated both town personnel policy and a police department policy manual, according to reports.
Officials said that police chief Smith reportedly engaged in detrimental personal conduct which included notifying law enforcement officers to attend a clinic where they would be able to obtain proof of COVID 19 vaccination cards without being vaccinated.
The letter from Town Administrator Burgess to Police Chief Smith reads:
“Based on my review of all information available and provided that relate to your failures in personnel conduct, I am placing you on unpaid leave for two calendar weeks, beginning December 21, 2021. You are placed on probation for six calendar months, beginning December 21, 2021. Further violations will lead to discipline up to and including dismissal.”
The letter also says that police chief Smith has a right to appeal the action. Officials said that the municipal government hired a private investigation firm to figure out what happened.
According to reports, Smith reportedly told officers and troopers there was a vaccination clinic where they would be given a syringe to go in a bathroom to self-inject or dispose of the vaccine.
Police chief allegedly said there was an arrangement with a pharmacist and that either way, the officers would receive a vaccination card. He also said that he did not view anything wrong with the procedure as he was unfamiliar at the time with vaccine rules.
Police Chief Smith reportedly said that he doesn’t know much about the vaccine process, but says he is personally vaccinated against the novel coronavirus. He reportedly admitted that he shared misinformation he heard from a friend but didn’t do so from a place of malice.
According to reports, Police Chief Smith released the following statement:
“Many have asked me for details regarding my involvement in recent allegations. To make a long story short, in retrospect, I made a mistake. A friend called me with some information about a mobile vaccination clinic. It was a busy morning like every other busy morning. After I got off the phone with that friend, I called two other officers (not in my department) and passed on information about what was described as a “self-vaccination” clinic. I got one phone call, hung up and made two others. I didn’t sit back and digest the information, ruminate on it, or otherwise give it much thought. I just passed it on.
Having the benefit of hindsight now, it is obvious the entire process sounds questionable. I didn’t post it on social media, and I didn’t really sit back and think hard on it at that moment. It was just one person sharing the word with another.
I’m not a doctor and not in the medical field. I don’t know much about the vaccine process or what’s involved. That’s what these clinics and such are for. Being in the military, I have taken many vaccinations without ever knowing what was in them or how they worked. I received my own Covid vaccines in the spring of this year from the VA hospital in Salisbury. I just try to help people where I can, and I passed on something that, in hindsight, I shouldn’t have.
I’m owning that. It was a mistake, and I shared misinformation. That’s true. I wanted to say something about this before now, but with everything going on, it was best that I wait for the investigative process to conclude.
I shared something that wasn’t true. I didn’t profit from it. I couldn’t possibly profit from it, and I didn’t do it from a place of malice. I care deeply about others, and I sincerely appreciate that I have a job that allows me to serve them and to see things improve in my community. We have the greatest people anywhere right here in Oakboro, and I hope they know my heart well enough to know that this came from a place of caring, that I realize I made a mistake now, and that they will allow me to continue serving in the best way I know how.”