Winston-Salem city officials acknowledged Thursday they’re conducting an internal personnel investigation into Assistant Police Chief William Penn after an audio recording surfaced on Facebook Nov. 27 of him seemingly admitting to physically assaulting his wife.
Penn’s wife, Cicely Penn, also emailed a copy of the recording to the Winston-Salem Journal. The recording, which appears to be a snippet of a longer conversation from an argument the two had on Nov. 8, opens with Cicely Penn recalling an argument between the couple in which the two exchanged profanities. William Penn then describes the alleged assault to his wife.
“I stood up, grabbed you by the throat, pushed you up against the wall and then slammed you on the couch,” William Penn can be heard saying.
In a statement through his attorney, Michael Grace, William Penn, 44, denies an assault took place, saying the recording is unrelated to any assault. The statement does not deny that William Penn is speaking in the recording, or what he said.
“Mrs. Penn has made similar allegations in the past,” Grace wrote in a statement. “All such past allegations, after thorough review, were determined to be unfounded. We are confident the current allegations will result in the same determination.”
City Manager Lee Garrity confirmed to the Journal that city officials were investigating the incident as a personnel matter, and declined to share further details citing state privacy laws. William Penn has not been criminally charged. City Attorney Angela Carmon said the decision on whether to investigate the incident criminally has not been made.
In addition, Cicely Penn, 42, hasn't sought a domestic violence protective order against her husband.
The assault allegedly occurred in March 2018, according to Cicely Penn, and officers with the Winston-Salem Police Department came to the home that night, she said. Cicely Penn said an officer gave her a slip of paper with an incident report number on it, and stayed with her until William Penn left the home.
On Thursday afternoon, the police department sent out a news release containing a redacted version of the incident report. The report lists William Penn as the victim, not his wife, and lists his home address as the police department. The location of the incident is redacted. However, Cicely Penn said the alleged assault happened at the couple's home.
On Wednesday, the police department’s record division could not find any record of an incident at the home.
Before the incident report was released, Cicely Penn said she wasn't surprised that there are no public reports about their argument or the incident.
“They (the Winston-Salem Police Department) are not going to make that available to the public because he is an assistant police chief,” Cicely Penn said.
She said that neither she nor her friends posted the audio tape of her argument with her husband on Facebook, and that she didn’t know how it got on the site.
William Penn, through Grace’s statement, accused his wife of creating a fake Facebook account and disseminating a “false narrative” to William Penn’s subordinates at the police department.
Cicely Penn said she hasn’t spoken to her husband since an argument on Nov. 8, and plans to seek a divorce from him.
Cicely Penn said she doesn’t think about how their dispute may affect her husband’s job in the police department.
“I just want a divorce,” she said.
When Cicely Penn was asked whether her husband should face any disciplinary action from the police department, she said, “I really don’t even care.”
Police Chief Catrina Thompson could not be reached for comment Thursday.
In a news release, the police department said it was aware of the matter and that its Professional Standards Division is investigating. The department will not comment further on the matter, the statement said.