Latta police chief looks back, moves forward two years after firing

Latta police chief looks back, moves forward two years after firing

LATTA, SC (WMBF) - It's a story that made national headlines

Latta Police Chief Chrystal Moore was fired in 2014 after more than 20 years on the force by the town's mayor soon after he was elected. She said it was because she is openly gay.

After her dismissal, the people of Latta stood by her.

In the spring of 2014, the residents of Latta wouldn't let Moore leave without a fight. Now two years later, her life as a wife, a mother and a reinstated police chief back protecting the town she loves is what her life is all about.

Two years ago, Latta Mayor Earl Bullard went after Moore during his first few months in office. Then, in just one day, the job she had put the past twenty three years of her life into was taken away.

"To know that, just because of my sexuality, someone can come in and get rid of me knowing I've put my whole life here?" Moore said. "I was born and raised here and gave it my all."

The mayor denied that his decision to fire Moore had anything to do with her sexuality. Instead, he cited seven things she had done wrong, including questioning the authority of the mayor and talking to the media.

Moore went back to that day she was fired and explained,

"When I walked in, he handed me seven reprimands. 'This is bogus,' I said. 'Mayor, I'm doing exactly what I'm supposed to. I have policies and procedures that every write up you gave me, I have a law or statute that says I'm doing what I'm supposed to,'" Moore said. "He said, 'Are you going to sign these reprimands?' I told him I've never had any reprimands. He said, 'Are you going to sign them?' I stood up to leave and said, 'No sir, not at this time. I'm going to call my lawyer first and let her know what's going on.' He said, ''Hand me your badge, your gun and your keys. You're no longer hired here. You're fired.'"

A few months later, the South Carolina Department of Employment and Workforce found that Moore was fired without cause.

Afterward, Latta passed a referendum changing the town from a 'strong mayor' to a 'strong council' form of government, and Moore had her job as police chief back.

"It was just overwhelming to see how many people came to support me," Moore said. "The job I had done for the town, and because of one person's hatred was snatched away."

The small conservative town of Latta wasn't the only one to take notice. Moore spoke on MSNBC, was featured in People Magazine and headline after headline was written about her.

Moore was acknowledged by the Gay and Lesbian Alliance, and won awards for courage and leadership from South Carolina Pride and South Carolina Equality organizations.

"It has come full circle. When we started dating, we knew there would be people out there that would ridicule us. We knew we've had family and friends that went through it. We've been there ourselves," said Moore. "We've had our ups and downs and trials, but I have a family, I have health coverage. You know, being treated equal and fighting for it, it's been a blessing."

Moore wants people to see she is more than the person behind a badge, a gun, and a patrol car. Now, her town sees her as a mother, too. She said that's only by the grace of God.

The police chief takes that same love she has for her little girl with her while she's out patrolling Latta's streets.

"You got to see what's going on with that person. You want to treat them with that respect. Yes they broke the law, but at the same time, treat them with that dignity," Moore said

The town of Latta can expect a few things in the future under Moore's leadership. She would like to see the police department get back to a full staff, add surveillance equipment and a K-9 unit for the town, work more drug enforcement and take part in additional community outreach.

Moore wants to retire having served the town she always used to dream of protecting.

"My biggest goal here in Latta is to make the citizens feel safer, to know they can walk out and go to their car in the middle of the night and feel comfortable," she said.

Even after being fired, Moore said she wouldn't change one thing about the town of Latta. Ultimately, when push came to shove, everyone stuck together to do what was right.

"It was probably the best thing that could have happened because God puts you through things, he puts you through trials and he's never going to leave you. I think that was an eye opener not just for this small community, but everywhere," said Moore.

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