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GPD captain responsible for grievances faces fitness-for-duty evaluation

by Jordan Green

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A Greensboro police captain who has filed numerous grievances on behalf of himself and other officers has been placed on administrative duty and faces a fitness-for-duty evaluation.

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Capt. Charles Cherry, who has command of the Eastern patrol division, told subordinates in a June 17 mass e-mail that a bureau commander notified him that he was banned from the Maple Street substation or any police lineups following a meeting Cherry had with Eastern Division Squad A to read from a bureau-level recommendation that he receive a fitness-for-duty evaluation.

“As your commander, I believe it is my obligation to inform you of my status,” Cherry states in the e-mail. “If one of you were going through this process, I would be the first to know. I also just think it is the right thing to do. City Manager Mr. Rashad Young has a stern policy (and rightfully so) as it relates to malicious gossip and criticism. By informing you, you can be free to speak about the situation with known facts.”

A copy of the e-mail was obtained by YES! Weekly on Monday. “I don’t have a comment at this time,” Cherry said, after being reached by phone. “I just wanted to let my officers know what my status was.”

Cherry’s e-mail quoted from a fitness-for-duty recommendation written by a bureau commander in explaining the official reasoning behind the decision: “During the past two months, Captain CE Cherry has submitted or written seven (7) grievances. He has also submitted and/or authored additional responses to the responses he has received. The manner in which the documents are constructed, his inability to accept reasonable responses, his physical reactions in front of subordinate employees (sworn and non-sworn) during this time period gave rise to concerns for his emotional stability. While it is unknown if this is an emotional stability issue or a performance issue, Captain Cherry was afforded an opportunity to voluntarily seek assistance through the Employee Assistance Program.

“After reviewing several grievances, submitted and/or prepared by Captain CE Cherry, discussing this issue with him, offering voluntary support through the Employee Assistance Program, and based on a recommendation from Professional Standards Review Meeting, I have concluded that there is sufficient information to warrant placing Captain CE Cherry on administrative duty,” the memo, as quoted by Cherry, continues. “While he is on administrative duty, I recommend he be evaluated by the departmental psychologist regarding his fitness for duty.”

Cherry states in his e-mail that, indeed, four separate officers came to him and asked for his assistance in writing grievances on unrelated issues and he agreed to help them after concluding that their concerns had merit and that they had exhausted all other avenues of resolution.

“This is not a violation of departmental directives or city policy,” Cherry wrote in the e-mail. “However, it is part of the criteria as to why I am undergoing a fit for duty evaluation.”

As to the wording of the grievances, Cherry said they were drafted according to a mandated memo format established by the city manager’s office and that “there was no derogatory or disrespectful language in the memorandums.” Again, he argued, nothing about the wording of the grievances violates departmental directives or city policy.

Cherry also raised questions about “his inability to accept reasonable responses” being cited as a reason for a fitness-for-duty evaluation.

The captain stated in response that if an officer does not agree with an immediate supervisor’s response, the employee has the right to appeal the response to the next level of supervision, and ultimately up to the chief.

Departmental Directive 3.9.5 Appeal Procedures states that “if an employee’s grievance is not resolved within the police department through channels, the employee has the right to appeal to the city manager for the following types of complaints: discrimination against any employee on the basis of age, race, color, gender or sexual orientation; acts of retaliation as a result of reporting any acts of violation of city, state or federal laws.”

“Many of the grievances are at the level of the city manager or assistant city manager awaiting a ruling,” the Cherry e-mail states. Cherry is a plaintiff, along with 38 other black police officers, in a federal discrimination lawsuit against the city.

In response to the alleged reasoning that the fitness-for-duty evaluation was ordered because of “his physical reactions in front of subordinate employees,” Cherry responded, “I have not been investigated, sustained and am not currently under any investigation relating to my physical reactions or anything else. I was rated a level (4) on my last evaluation. I have not been counseled as it relates to my physical reactions.”

Michael Speedling, assistant city manager for public safety and human resources, said he could not comment on Cherry’s e-mail or the police captain’s explanation of the circumstances surrounding his fitness-for-duty evaluation.

“You’re taking his version, and that’s obviously one version,” Speedling said. “I can’t speak to the accuracy because I would get into the crux of the personnel issue.”

In other developments related to police administration, Speedling briefed his boss, City Manager Rashad Young, on Tuesday on final recommendations by a task force convened to evaluate the discipline processes across city departments. The articulated goal of the task force is “to ensure that discipline review in all city organizations has a consistent standard of quality, is uniform and is handled consistently,” Young said during a press conference last month.

The Cherry e-mail concludes by expressing that officers in the Eastern Division should feel free to discuss his status.

“Thanks to you all we have a great department and an incredible division,” Cherry writes. “Remember to police with compassion, be fair and consistent [and] make your decisions based on right and wrong (don’t let other things such as friendships, dislikes of individuals, etc. sway your decisions).”’ 

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