E. Spencer fires police chief

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, July 30, 2013

EAST SPENCER — East Spencer town officials fired Police Chief Darren Westmoreland on Monday, a week after a Post report detailed officers’ accusations against the embattled chief.
Board members voted unanimously to oust Westmoreland during a special meeting at town hall Monday night. They also appointed an acting chief, effective Tuesday.
According to a public notice, council members met to discuss the Post’s investigative reports that detailed current and former officers’ accusations against Westmoreland. Those allegations ranged from allegedly falsified time sheets to calling off assistance during a homicide investigation.
Officers told the Post Westmoreland also failed to properly investigate the shooting of a 2-year-old in December.
Following the roughly two-hour, closed-session meeting, Mayor Barbara Mallet declined to comment on the department’s changing leadership or officers’ allegations.
Mallet said only, “We’re changing direction.”
After he was fired from the Davidson County Sheriff’s Office in June 2009, Westmoreland was hired on October 14, 2010 at East Spencer.
On July 18, 2011, he was named interim chief, following the firing of former chief Floyd Baldo.
Westmoreland was tapped as the new chief on February 1, 2012.
But in last week’s Post, officers’ accused Westmoreland of calling off help from the State Bureau of Investigation and the Rowan County Sheriff’s Office during a 2011 homicide investigation.
A Sheriff’s Office incident report obtained by the Post detailed an exchange with Westmoreland in which the then-acting chief told the other departments, “he did not want our assistance,” the report said.
Relatives of the victim, 20-year-old Travis Hinds — who was shot multiple times at a house party that, at one point, housed more than 75 people — told the Post authorities told them the SBI and Sheriff’s office were “booked up” and could not assist in the investigation. No one was charged in the shooting.
Officers also alleged that Westmoreland did not fully investigate a 2-year-old’s shooting on East Torbush Street after police were called to a home invasion with a child injured. The toddler was taken to the hospital, according to investigative reports obtained by the Post, and authorities found what appeared to be marijuana and digital scales inside the home.
Months later, the report said, the case remained open and no charges were filed.
All East Spencer alderman were present at Monday’s meeting, and there were raised voices at times in what appeared to be a heated discussion.
Shortly after coming back into open session, Mallett asked for motions on the floor.
“I make a motion that we’re to relieve the chief of his duties,” Alderman Tammy Corpening said.
Mayor Pro Tem Curtis Cowan seconded the motion.
After voting to relieve Westmoreland of his duties Monday night, Officer Baxter Michael was named the acting chief with another unanimous vote.
When asked about the allegations and firing of Westmoreland, Town Administrator Macon C. Sammons Jr. said, “The only comment I would make is that we’ve decided to make a change in direction and that that will be effective tomorrow.”

Contact reporter Nathan Hardin at 704-797-4246.