LAURINBURG — The city of Laurinburg has dismissed the Rev. Michael Edds as chaplain for the Laurinburg Police Department.
City officials would not say publicly that the dismissal had anything to do with a newspaper column written last week by Edds that was critical of the Laurinburg City Council’s plan to build a new city hall.
“It is an internal matter within the police department,” City Manager Charles Nichols said.
Laurinburg Police Chief Darwin Williams confirmed that Edds will no longer serve in the role of chaplain. Williams declined to discuss the reason.
“I’m not going to get into it right now. I will let others handle that,” Williams said. “I will say that Pastor Edds has done a lot for the city.”
The police department chaplain is a volunteer position.
Edds in an guest editorial in The Laurinburg Exchange on Feb. 19 said the money spent on a proposed new municipal building could be better used to help reduce crime and violence. Edds, senior pastor at East Laurinburg Pentecostal Holiness Church, has also voiced his opposition to the proposed $5.5 million facility at City Council meetings.
“The city has the fourth highest violent crime rate in the state,” Edds wrote in the column. “Youth are being beaten and slaughtered on our streets. The five gangs in the city are proliferating. Will the new city building solve this? What could be done with $5.5 million to address this critical issue?
Edds declined to talk about why or how he was dismissed as police chaplain. The pastor said he did not want the false impression that he had an acrimonious relation with city officials.
“There is no conflict. We don’t have a problem,” he said. “I’ve had strong feelings on the issue of City Hall and I’ve expressed them. I’m not going to say anything any more. I will let the powers that be figure out these issues.”
Privately some city officials have questioned Edds’ continued criticism of council and crime problems while serving with the police department.
“If you are going to be part of the team, you need to be part of the team,” one city official said on Tuesday.
Others have expressed concern that Edds was named chaplain by former Police Chief Johnnie Evans without being vetted or having a clearly defined job description.
But in a statement released on Wednesday, Mayor Matthew Block said the decision to let Pastor Edds go as chaplain “was done without my knowledge.”
“Pastor Edds informed me of his dismissal, after the fact,” said Block, who called Edds a dedicated volunteer.
“Not only serving as chaplain for the past five years, but on the Crime and Drug Committee and also raising money to help the police purchase body cameras, all of which he has done without pay,” Block said. “Therefore, I was surprised to hear of his dismissal. I expect, in the very near future, to gain a better understanding why this action was felt necessary.”
Edds plans to continue to volunteer with the police department.
“I don’t need a title to serve people and to serve the community,” said Edds, who delivered hot apple pies to the department this week even after the dismissal. “I’m still going to do what I have always done which is try to support and encourage our fine law enforcement officers. I will continue to be an advocate for them in the community. I love them and they are good people.”
Reach Scott Witten at 910-506-3023