BROWNSVILLE, TN (abc24.com) - A Mid-South police chief caught on camera holding a "whites only" sign will keep his job. The Mayor of Brownsville, TN, says there was no malicious intent and the matter is closed.
Brownsville Police Chief Chris Lea also owns a funeral home; it's the place where the controversy began. He says he found a crumpled piece of paper on the floor, took the photo as a joke and three years later, it's surfaced. The picture stirring up all the controversy shows Lea smiling while holding a sign that says "whites only."
Keith Tyus was disgusted when he saw the picture, "Only in Haywood County, racists!"
Brian Latore had a similar reaction, "Whites only? And he's the Chief of Police? I think he only has two options: resign or get fired."
His officers don't see it that way. Corporal Randy Taylor and several other officers, on their time off, publicly stood behind their leader Friday. They stood in the center of the town square with signs that read, "We stand beside Chief Lea." Taylor says, "We're not forced to be up here, we're here because this is what we're feeling, this is what's right, this is what were doing."
Taylor says he believes whoever leaked the photo is out to ruin the Chief's good name.
Lea wouldn't return our calls, and each time we stopped by, his secretary said he was out. However, he spoke to Corporal Taylor several times during the day. "He said it was harmless," Taylor recounts, "it was nothing and somebody thought it was something and they're trying to make a big deal out of it."
However, to many residents of this small town it is a big deal, jest or not. "He shouldn't even joke that way," Tyus says. Brownsville resident Shiwanda Adams agrees. "I don't care if you're joking around or not, if you are at that level, with authority over somebody, that's serious, you don't play like that. Everybody don't take kind to that."