Southport chief charged, mayor assures police protection

SOUTHPORT, NC (WWAY) — The City of Southport is now without a police department after a multi-agency investigation found the police chief and his second in command allegedly broke their oaths to serve the public.

Chief Gary Smith faces charges of obstruction of justice, willful failure to discharge duties and obtaining property by false pretense. Lt. Michael Simmons is charged with obtaining property by false pretense.

The entire Southport Police Department has been put on paid administrative leave as the investigation continues. It has left the city scrambling to assure the public they will have police protection.

“My heart is broken,” Southport Mayor Jerry Dove said.

Dove, who served as police chief before Smith, was a longtime friend and colleague of Smith.

A three-month-long investigation by the DA, State Bureau of Investigation and Federal Bureau of Investigation was sparked by a tip from inside the department.

“At first it was law enforcement officers that came to other law enforcement officers and said, ‘I think we have a problem,'” District Attorney Jon David said.

David said the Smith and Simmons worked for a shipping company while they were also clocked in to serve the city. The DA added that at many times their investigation found the two men would leave the city and even the state conducting their work.

“Southport was running as a ghost ship,” David said.

A ship that lost its sails Thursday morning when the DA went to city leaders with the news of the pending arrests. WWAY’s Andrew James asked Mayor Dove if problems in pay led the men to allegedly break their oaths.

“They had a salary increase, what, in the past three years to bring them up to equal some of the departments around here,” Dove said.

Now the entire department has to suspend operations with every officer on administrative leave. Chief Smith and Simmons are also suspended with pay.

“A lot of these officers have done absolutely nothing wrong,” David said.

The Brunswick County Sheriff’s Office will take over policing operations.

“We are still going to have police protection, law enforcement protection,” Dove said. “The sheriff is going to come down, and he’s not going to let us down.”

David says search warrants have gone to the shipping company for more evidence. He would not disclose what job capacity the two men had with the company nor its name.

Categories: Brunswick, Local