Alabama mayor: Former police chief refused to hire Black officers

Published 6:21 am Friday, June 18, 2021

A Black Alabama mayor accused of assault by the city’s white former police chief claimed Thursday that the two got into a dispute because the chief wouldn’t hire black officers.

Tarrant Mayor Wayman Newton told a news conference that former chief Dennis Reno had a discriminatory practice of refusing to hire African Americans as police officers and wouldn’t change it. Newton said Reno told him that he didn’t hire Black officers “because Black officers don’t like to police their own.”

“There was a verbal disagreement about this between myself and Mr. Reno in my office on November 3, 2020 in which Mr. Reno is alleging that I slammed his arm in a door. This is not true, and I fully expect to be exonerated,” said Newton.

Reno told that he only worked for Newton for two hours. Reno said he and Newton had only one conversation about the racial makeup of the police force and he told the mayor: “I don’t hire off race, I hire off qualifications.”

Reno swore out a warrant on Newton for third-degree assault, and the mayor surrendered to authorities on Wednesday and was released on bond.

Newton, the first black mayor of the mostly Black Birmingham suburb of 6,400 people, said there were no Black people on the police force when he became mayor.

Reno retired Jan. 1 after more than four decades of police work.