STANLY COUNTY, N.C. (FOX 46 CHARLOTTE) — A town in North Carolina has suspended its police chief after he told officers about a vaccine clinic where they could get a COVID-19 vaccination card without actually taking the shot.
Following an investigation, Oakboro Police Chief TJ Smith was suspended without pay for two weeks and placed on probation for six months, starting Dec. 21.
In the official disciplinary letter sent to Chief Smith from Town Administrator Doug Burgess, Burgess said he was being suspended for “notifying officers about a clinic where they would be able to obtain proof of COVID 19 vaccination cards without being vaccinated.”
Despite the disciplinary action, many Oakboro residents have spoken out in support of Chief Smith.
“Everybody makes mistakes in their line of work. I just don’t think it’s right or fair for him to suspended,” said Ashley Blake.
Burgess’ letter states Chief Smith’s actions violate personnel policies regarding fraud, endangering others, and serving a conflicting interest. But Mary Watkins, who has lived in Oakboro for around 20 years, says that’s not the chief she knows.
“Anybody can make a mistake. And maybe the only thing [they] had to do was just talk to him, because the community loves him. I know I do,” said Watkins.
The FBI has been warning the nation about the dangers of fake COVID vaccine cards for months. They say anyone who is caught selling or buying fake cards could face a fine and jail time.
“Misrepresenting yourself as being vaccinated and entering a gym, a house of worship, a school, place of education is not only putting you at risk, but it’s putting others at risk,” said FBI spokesperson Bridget Patton during an interview back in April.
FOX 46 reached out to Chief Smith for a comment regarding his suspension and did not receive a response. He does have a right to appeal his disciplinary action.