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A former Missouri police chief who abruptly resigned along with five other municipal employees after the town's first black female mayor was elected denied Wednesday that her race was a factor.
Instead, Trish Cohen told NBC News, she stepped down this month after 10 years as Parma's top cop because she felt newly elected Mayor Tyus Byrd didn't appear to support the police force of six officers. Cohen said she was having negative experiences with Byrd's relatives, and claims they were posting home addresses for herself and Assistant Police Chief Rich Medley on social media — making them feel unsafe.
"We put our families’ safety before anyone else," said Cohen, declining to elaborate what the postings entailed.
Medley, who also quit, said he heard Byrd planned to fire the officers upon her swearing in — and preferred instead to leave without any incident.
"If it had anything to do with race, I would have never went to work in that town," Cohen added. " I love that town. There are some very good people there."
The question of whether the departures were racially motivated was suggested after the story was widely shared online this week. Byrd, a former city clerk, edged out incumbent Mayor Randall Ramsey, who is white. The small town of 700 people is about 67 percent white and 30 percent black, according to 2010 census data.
Byrd, 40, told NBC News on Tuesday that she didn't think the resignations were race related, but she also had no idea why there was the sudden exodus of employees. Six of the 11 workers who quit included the water department supervisor and city clerk.
Cohen said the tensions are simply representative of small-town politics. "I wouldn’t necessarily say personality clashes," she added. "Just trust issues."