By ROBIN REESE
The police chief of a small North Carolina town has had to turn in his weapon and badge for failing an annual firearms certification test, though he remains on the job.
Richlands Police Chief Thomas Bennett was suspended by the state’s Criminal Justice Standards Division on February 7, according to Jennifer Canada, spokesperson for the North Carolina Justice Department.
Canada said the letter sent to Bennett is part of his personnel file and therefore is not public record. She also said the agency does not release firearm scores.
Bennett has led the police force since 1999.
The chief declined to be interviewed by ABC News, saying “It is what it is, I’ve discussed it and I’m not going to keep talking about it.”
Bennett told the Jacksonville (NC) Daily News in an earlier interview, “I am the chief administrator for the Richlands Police Department, that hasn’t changed, except I will retire in July.”
Town Administrator Gregg Whitehead told ABC News the town had never dealt with anything like this before.
“Since Chief Bennett was retiring in July, the Board of Alderman decided to keep him on to provide a transition period to the next police chief,” said Whitehead. “He didn’t violate any law, he just couldn’t meet the training standard, and the board felt he didn’t lose his ability to do other functions as the chief.”
The Board of Alderman are responsible for hiring the next chief of police.
According to Whitehead, in addition to not being able to carry a gun or his badge, the suspension means Bennett cannot wear his uniform or operate a patrol car with the blue lights activated.