Less than 45 days after beginning his position as the head of the Asheville Police Department, Chief Chris Bailey has announced his resignation from the force, citing “personal reasons.” Bailey moved to Asheville in June from Indianapolis, where he previously served as the deputy chief of criminal investigations for the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department.
“I appreciate the opportunity and confidence the City Manager and selection committee had in me to lead the great women and men of the Asheville Police Department,” Bailey said in a Sept. 11 press release from the city. “I cannot say enough great things about my experience here. The support I have received from the police department, city management and community has been incredible. It has been heartbreaking for me to come to this decision after being embraced by so many.”
Bailey’s resignation will take effect on Friday, Sept. 27, with Robert C. White to serve as interim chief beginning Tuesday, Oct. 1, according to the press release. Currently retired, White has previously held the police chief role in Denver, Louisville, Ky., and Greensboro.
The announcement comes after social media reports that Bailey would quit in light of an investigation by the N.C. Department of Justice. Chad Nesbitt of SKYline News alleged on Sept. 10 that the DOJ’s Criminal Justice Education and Training Standards Commission found that Bailey had been charged with a felony and pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor during his time in Indianapolis, a history that Nesbitt said had been overlooked by city leaders.
Asheville officials acknowledged that Bailey had been “involved in an incident that resulted in a misdemeanor” but denied that the charge was tied to his resignation. Details about the incident, according to the city’s press release, had been “voluntarily shared by the chief at the beginning of the interview process.” The press release also noted that Bailey had “an exemplary record in his service as a law enforcement officer.”
A July 10, 2004, story published in The Indianapolis Star details how Bailey was arrested and charged with residential entry and intimidation — both felony charges — as well as two counts of battery, both misdemeanors. According to the newspaper, Bailey allegedly punched a male friend of his estranged wife and threatened his life while displaying a handgun.
The Star article notes that Bailey was placed on administrative duty with the IMPD and subjected to an internal investigation after the incident. He then continued to serve with the department, climbing the ranks to deputy chief; a Sept. 11 story from Indy Star says that Bailey hopes to return to the agency.
In a Sept. 11 email to Asheville City Manager Debra Campbell, April Burgess-Johnson, executive director for Asheville-based domestic violence agency Helpmate, said she felt “deeply disappointed” in the city’s appointment of Bailey despite the incident.
If Bailey “had written a bad check, bought a beer when he was 18 or ran over his neighbor’s trash can, I would worry much less about those infractions which could be a correctable and temporary error in judgment,” Burgess-Johnson wrote. “However, domestic violence is a class of crime that tells us much about a person’s character and has been shown to be quite predictive of future actions including capacity to misuse power and violence in other settings.”
On Sept. 13, Campbell shared her emailed response to Burgess-Johnson with Xpress. While the city manager agreed that domestic violence is “without question, a serious problem,” she stood by her decision to hire Bailey based on his more recent job performance in Indianapolis.
“I am a staunch believer in second chances. And from his track record of promotions, it appears that the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department also had high confidence in Chris Bailey’s ability to perform his duties and demonstrate leadership with high integrity,” Campbell wrote. “It is unfortunate that his decision to respond to the needs of his family has been overshadowed by the unfortunate circumstances that occurred in his past.”
Campbell, who took office Dec. 3, was tasked with replacing former Chief Tammy Hooper after the chief announced her resignation on Nov. 7. That move came after the publication of body camera footage showing former APD officer Chris Hickman beating Asheville resident Johnnie Jermaine Rush.
Campbell tapped Bailey after conducting a search early this year, which included two community input meetings, an online survey garnering 228 responses and street teams that engaged residents in various Asheville neighborhoods. Campbell also hired the Police Executive Research Forum, a Washington, D.C.-based consultancy that specializes in police research and management services, to organize the search and provide guidance to the city for $35,000.
According to the city’s press release, the same firm will be used to recruit Bailey’s replacement. The city expects to have the position filled by January 2020.
“While this news is unfortunate, we continue to be committed to hiring a police chief who demonstrates the ability to meaningfully connect with the community and fellow police officers,” Campbell said in the press release. “I hate to see Chris go but I respect his decision.”
Updated at 5:08 on Sept. 13 to include comments from April Burgess-Johnson and Debra Campbell.