The small town of Parma, Mo. found itself torn apart by controversy and national outrage this week, after reports surfaced that the majority of its police department and several other city officials resigned upon the election of the town's first black female mayor. The resigned officers, who failed to notify incoming mayor Tyrus Byrd that they would be stepping down, reportedly cited "safety concerns" as the reason for their collective departure, but have been accused of having racist or sexist motivations.
That's not the case, though, according to Parma's former assistant police chief Rich Medley, one of the four officers to submit his resignation after Byrd's election. In an interview with Vocativ, Medley claims he, the chief of police and two other part-time officers who stepped down did not give up their jobs because of the mayor's race or gender, but rather because he felt threatened by Byrd's family:
“It’s appalling to hear those accusations, and it’s personally offensive,” Medley told Vocativ on Tuesday. “A person is a person, whether they are a man or woman, white, black, yellow, brown, pink or purple.” [...]
Medley, 34, says his decision to leave the department was based on tensions with the new mayor’s family, but said they weren’t race- or gender-related. He says that during the course of previous investigations before the recent election he had encountered several of Byrd’s relatives and had at times gotten a hostile reaction. He says in one case, he was told directly: “I’ll have your job.” Byrd, the new mayor, briefly served as the city clerk eight years ago. Her father was a city alderman.
“Those interactions led me to believe the newly elected mayor would either not allow me to do my job as required by law, or pursue disciplinary action on me of some sort when I did,” he says.
Medley also felt that his family could end up in harm’s way after a critic of the Parma police department started posting his name and personal details about where he lived on social media. “That lead to concern for the safety of my children, my parents,” he says. “Someone with malicious intent could easily target them.”
None of the resignation letters have been made public, so the officers' official reasons for stepping down remain unconfirmed. The changes have led to ugly debate between Parma residents on social media, with supporters of the cops making incendiary, racist remarks about the new mayor and her supporters. Medley has condemned their actions, and says he regrets failing to notify Byrd of his concerns or his resignation.
"I didn’t really see any point in going to talk to her," Medley said. "In hindsight, I probably should have. I’ve got no ill opinion or issues with the mayor. I wish her the best of luck."