The same day that Tyrus Byrd became the first female African-American mayor of Parma, Missouri, five of six police officers in the tiny city abruptly resigned.
The police, who were joined by the city’s clerk, attorney and wastewater supervisor, cited “safety concerns” as they took their leave, according to local news station KFVS. In all, more than half of the town’s employees resigned.
Dismay with the Parma police had already become heightened a month before, when a white part-time officer used a Taser on a black teenager. The officer said he had attempted to apprehend the 17-year-old, who is related to Byrd, over suspicions of prank calls made to the police department. When the teen refused to speak, the officer Tasered and arrested him.
That night, a number of African-American community members gathered at the police station to lodge their concerns over the incident, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
Byrd told KFVS that she would wait until she had more information to discuss the issues. Her first order of business, she said, was cleaning up the 713-person town. Nearly a week after taking office, Byrd told KFVS that she could not yet locate the resignation letters. Nor could she find financial statements, budget documents or other papers, she told the Post-Dispatch.
“I don’t understand,” Byrd told the Post-Dispatch. “I never said anything about cleaning house.”
Townspeople expressed dismay at the sudden departure of 80 percent of the city’s police force, but suggested that the six-person department might have been too large for such a small community.
“I don’t think they hurt the town any by quitting, because who needs six police for 740 people?” Parma resident Martha Miller told a reporter from KFVS. Two of the departing officers were full-time, and three were part-time.
Parma, once a thriving agricultural community, had declined over several decades. The outgoing mayor, Randall Ramsey, had been in office for 37 years.