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Allegations Of Domestic Violence Led To Durham Police Chief's Resignation

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DURHAM, NC — Durham's city manager said new information about the Bull City's newly appointed police chief led to his resignation.

City Manager Marcia Conner said Gregory Watkins turned in his resignation Wednesday night when allegations of domestic violence against two women in his past surfaced.

"He presented me with his resignation late last evening in my office and I thanked him for it," Conner said. "I felt that it was an unfortunate situation, but felt it was in the best interests of the community to move forward."

Conner said she knew about a previous incident of domestic violence in Watkins' past that had been expunged from his record, but she said she did not know about an incident that took place more than 10 years ago. The group that the city hired to investigate Watkins' past did not come up with the new information.

"I think it raises serious questions. As a community, we have said that it is a standard that is not allowable and as an individual, I feel the same way," she said.

"I'm just waiting to see how this unfolds. Again, my primary focus right now will be the citizens of Durham and the Durham police department," said acting police chief Steve Chalmers, who was taken out of consideration for the position after allegations of domestic violence surfaced.

Obviously, we rather this hadn't happened, but I think fortunate in a way, I'm glad it happened before he stepped into office and decided to do something different," said Mayor Bill Bell.

Watkins resigned two weeks before he was to have taken office. He had beat out Jefferson County, Ky., Police Chief William S. Carcara and Chalmers.

City manager Marcia Conner said Carcara is still in the running. However, Carcara is also being considered for the chief's job in Sarasota, Florida. Sarasota plans to pick its new chief next month.

Watkins felt it would be in his and Durham's best interest toresign, City Councilman Howard Clement said.

"I am concerned as to what impact his history would have on the department and on the community. It is not something we can take lightly," Clement said.

Clement said city officials recently were told Watkins, 56, aretired deputy chief in Kansas City, Mo., had been married sixtimes and that one of his ex-wives had filed a restraining orderagainst him. He was ordered to have no contact with her and to stay away from her home.

"The man had been married six times, which really is no sin, you know. But it was surprising, because that information wasn't furnished us on the initial go-around and I understand that one of the marriages ended up in a very bitter situation where there was a restraining order issued. All of this did not reflect well on Mr. Watkins," Clement said.

Clement said City Manager Marcia Conner confronted Watkins with the information Wednesday, after he attended a police promotion ceremony.

"According to the city manager, he said 'I don't need to put up with this.' He called his wife and, according to the manager, talked to his wife and they decided he would resign," Clement said.

Clement said he would like to see the search process start over again.

Watkins applied for the Durham job after retiring from a 30-year career on the Kansas City force in June.

The Bull City had been without a permanent chief since January. Chief Teresa Chambers left the post, for which she was hired in 1997, to head the park police department in Washington, D.C.

Former Durham Police Chief Jackie McNeil retired in February 1997 amid allegations of sexual harassment and racism inside the department. Several lawsuits filed against McNeil were later dropped.

Before McNeil, Trevor Hampton held the post. He resigned because of public pressure and controversy after serving as Durham's police chief from 1988 to 92.