KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — Vice Mayor Gwen Mckenzie spoke Friday with WATE 6 On Your Side about her concerns regarding leadership at the Knoxville Police Department.
Mckenzie said this week she’s lost confidence in Chief Eve Thomas after claims of racism within the department’s ranks. Her conversation about the city agency comes a day after both Mayor Indya Kincannon and Thomas each issued statements on confidence and racism – in response to McKenzie expressing loss of confidence. Earlier this week, reports of an officer facing an internal investigation stemming from alleged racist remarks made while off-duty at a recent wedding reception put a spotlight on the department.
Mckenzie clarified her statement Friday.
“The statement that I made was that, at this point, I do not have confidence that the chief is able to adequately address this issue and change the culture there,” McKenzie said, adding that she feels that right now, there are some officers who are not representing who Knoxville is.
“I’m not trying to tell anyone how to do their job, by any means, but we need aggressive action to be taken,” McKenzie said. “We need those employees who feel like they’re in an environment that is allowing racist actions and behaviors to take place… for them to know it is not tolerated, for them to know that they do have advocates there and it’s going to be addressed and it’s going to be addressed immediately.”
Kincannon’s statement released Thursday touched on challenges including culture issues, saying in part:
“Do we have challenges? Yes. We have to tackle crime head-on and ensure the safety of neighborhoods. We have to address culture issues — including racism. And — we have to support our officers and address their concerns about recruitment, retention, wellness and morale.
“My expectations are clear — we do not and cannot tolerate racism and must strive for excellence each day and in each interaction as we seek to keep our city safe.”
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