The surprising announcement that Greensboro Police Chief Brian James was retiring at the end of next month has reverberated throughout the community.
James grew up in northeast Greensboro and had widespread support across the city.
Mayor Nancy Vaughan said, “Brian has been police chief almost two-and-a-half years and those were probably the most turbulent two-and-a-half years in Greensboro’s history.”
Vaughan added, “I was disappointed. I think he has done great things for the City of Greensboro and I was hoping we’d have him for five years at least.”
Vaughan noted that James came in as a change agent and that sometimes change agents don’t stay in a job long.
Councilmember Marikay Abuzuaiter had a different take on why James made the decision to retire. She said, “I don’t think he felt supported. You had councilmembers trying to tell him what to do. He is not our employee to berate and tell him everything he is doing is wrong.”
Under the council-manager form of government, the police chief is hired by and reports to the city manager, not the City Council. Ideally, if councilmembers had complaints about the police chief they should be aired with the city manager.
Abuzuaiter said, “I’ve observed Brian has not been supported by certain councilmembers.”
She added, “At the retreat, everybody was going after him about his youth job initiative.”
Abuzuaiter also said that City Manager Tai Jaiyeoba supported James “100 percent”
“I am heartbroken. I am heartbroken. He is such a good guy and where are we going to find someone like him, raised in Greensboro that knows Greensboro so well. Where are we going to find somebody like that? We’re not.”
James grew up in northeast Greensboro, graduated from Page High School and NC A&T State University and has been with the Greensboro Police Department since 1996.
Both Vaughan and Abuzuaiter praised James for the job he has done with the mental health response team, taking an initiative that had major problems and turning it into a program that has become a model for other police departments.