Pretty Little Liars of Kill Devil Hills – Episode I

By on February 5, 2016

 We suspect the readers of the Voice are tired of certain aspects of the Chief Britt/Kill Devil Hills/Judge Tillett saga. Probably many of our friends are also.

But this NeverEnding Story seems a little bit like the TV series “Pretty Little Liars” on FreeForm. On that show, some unknown source threatens to share secrets about the main characters who are all part of the same high school clique.

In our version, its about how a clique has tried to apply the definition of ethics and truth towards certain individuals outside that clique, when they should have been applying it towards themselves.

Commentary – First of A Series

We mentioned in our column published Thursday night that the town of Kill Devil Hills has kept this story in the news cycle for four years, and have based their complaints and actions against Superior Court Judge Jerry Tillet and attorney Dan Merrell on what boils down to the arena of ethics.

Ethics is a double-edged sword. If you’re going to go on stage and preach ethics, of which truth is a major component, then one should hold themselves to the standard.

We decided to go back all the way to the beginning, and then moving full steam to the most recent events to present some instances using town official’s own words and documents, to remind readers of just what we have been through regarding the truth.

And we’re asking our readers to at least ponder the town’s ethical claims against these two men given their handling of the truth in the past, and the “inside baseball” the town and its attorneys can play with the N.C. State Bar and the N.C. Judicial Standards Commission.

Russ first presented this as a series of pieces on his personal Facebook page, where 1,400 people are connected, to test the waters and perform a bias check.

The posts were well received, and even though some constituted old news, readers only recently exposed to the Tillett/KDH/Britt drama appreciated the background.

Contrary to the spin the town of Kill Devil Hills unleashed to the public with an affidavit from KDH assistant town manager Shawn Murphy describing events about a 2010 meeting, which he never attended personally and made revelations of other discussions other people had in which he played no part, the Voice has always used source documents where available.

All of which is in contrast to what Murphy swore under oath, which was mostly hearsay sprinkled with a lot of speculation. Or, in his own words, he submitted an affidavit based on “information and belief” rather than as a witness.

The story really began in 2011 when four current and former police officers filed a petition with the Superior Court request KDH police chief Gary Britt be removed from office.

The grievances were filed with the Superior Court because state law says that is where such petitions must be filed.

Those same officers later filed a civil suit against the town.

We ran a story on February 2, 2012 when the officers’ attorney, Dennis Rose, emerged from his previous silence and detailed the officers grievances, which appeared in this article:

Each of the four officers complaints caught our eye. But one claim in particular, by former KDH Officer David Shane Allen, stood out:

A second complaint raises a question of what one officer described as quotas. In this document, Officer David Shane Allen received a “Performance Improvement Plan.” In human resources jargon “a performance improvement plan is a formal process used by supervisors to help employees improve performance or modify behavior” as defined by the University of Texas.

Contacted by the Voice, Britt said he could not comment on the nature of the complaints because they were personnel issues. Asked about quotas, he responded: “Kill Devil Hills has never and will never have a quota system.”

He didn’t actually answer our question at all.

Putting aside words like “quota” and “system”, here is the actual document issued to the officer:

Quota or not?

Even for those who think this is not a quota, note the goals assigned here.

We spoke to officers at virtually every department in Dare County, and not one told us that their employers would ever issue something this specific.

And it was one of those officers, who does not work for KDH and never has who pointed out the following:

“Some of these goals are for criminal acts. Not just tickets, but actual criminal offenses,” the officer said. “How do assign any kind of number to a criminal offense? What if no one commits a crime?”

Is this the kind of pressure we want our police officers to be under? To write “x” amount of tickets and make “y” amount of criminal arrests per month?

Finally, note the document assigns “Essential” as the level of importance relative to the officer fulfilling these goals.

So, how can this seriously not be a quota?

Surely, everyone understands a police officer who makes no arrests or writes no citations over the course of a month is underperforming.

But again, in every department we spoke with, those issues are handled by retraining, ride-alongs with more experienced officers, and team goals where fellow officers handle underperforming colleagues. But never in writing such as this.

Quotas are not illegal in North Carolina, except for the State Highway Patrol, where they are specifically banned by statute.

But virtually all police departments avoid even the appearance of quotas because citizens would, rightly, begin questioning the motives and validity of arrests and citations knowing police officers have a goal to meet.

However, back to the main point. All of us here think this document is a quota.

So who told the truth here and who fibbed? The Voice? The police officer?  Or chief Gary Britt?

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