- A North Carolina police chief told cops where they can get fake COVID-19 vaccine cards, a town official alleged.
- Oakboro Town Administrator Doug Burgess put police chief TJ Smith on a two-week unpaid leave.
- Smith apologized in a statement to local outlet WBTV.
A North Carolina police chief was placed on unpaid leave after he reportedly told officers about a “self-vaccination” clinic where they could get COVID-19 vaccine cards even if they didn’t take the vaccine, local outlet WBTV reported.
Town Administrator Doug Burgess sent Smith a letter that said the reported advice violated personnel policies.
Oakboro Police Chief TJ Smith was placed on a two-week unpaid leave starting on December 21, as well as six-month probation, the WBTV reported.
Burgess also told Smith that further violation could result in termination, according to the letter obtained by WBTV.
Neither Burgess nor Smith responded to Insider’s email request for comment at the time of publication.
In a statement to WBTV, Smith said he made a mistake. He said he got a call from a friend about what was described as a “self-vaccination” clinic and called two other officers with that information.
“I got one phone call, hung up, and made two others. I didn’t sit back and digest the information, ruminate on it, or otherwise give it much thought. I just passed it on,” he said.
Smith added that he wasn’t very knowledgeable on vaccines but had received his COVID-19 shots in the spring.
“I’m owning that. It was a mistake, and I shared misinformation,” Smith said in the statement to WBTV. “That’s true. I wanted to say something about this before now, but with everything going on, it was best that I wait for the investigative process to conclude.
“I just try to help people where I can, and I passed on something that, in hindsight, I shouldn’t have,” Smith added. “I shared something that wasn’t true. I didn’t profit from it. I couldn’t possibly profit from it, and I didn’t do it from a place of malice. I care deeply about others, and I sincerely appreciate that I have a job that allows me to serve them and to see things improve in my community.”
COVID-19 has been the leading cause of death for police officers since the start of the pandemic, with over 460 officers dying. In 2020 and 2021, more than four times as many police officers died from COVID-19 than from gunfire.