MOCKSVILLE — Word that Sgt. Butters, the feline mascot of the Mocksville Police Department, no longer has a home at the department or on its Facebook page, has purr-turbed lots of folks in and around the town.
The social media-fueled outrage began earlier this week and has subsequently hair, errr, snowballed to the point that some people posting on Facebook say they will remember this issue come election time.
A Save Sarge Butters Facebook page had nearly 400 members as of Wednesday afternoon, and a petition at Change.org calling for the town to reinstall the American shorthair tabby as the face of the police department was well on its way to gathering 500 signatures.
Mayor William Marklin said Wednesday that the Mocksville Town Board has not been involved in Sgt. Butters’ removal from the force. However, one individual council member was concerned about the cat’s presence around a pregnant woman who has said that she cannot be around cats.
According to Marklin, the town manager, Matt Settlemyer, and the police department made the decision to find a new home for Sgt. Butters.
Marklin said he understands why people are upset.
“I know people love their pets, whether they’re cats or dogs. And in a society where police often get a negative rap, this cat kind of made for more positive interactions between police and the community. I can see the cat has a purpose,” he said.
“But I also understand that if someone is required to work in an office and there’s something they’re allergic to or some sort of physical problem. I can see there may need to be a change. I’m not sure if the public is aware of those details.”
Mocksville Police Chief Pat Reagan is on vacation this week, Marklin said. The police department referred all questions to the Mocksville Town Hall. Settlemyer did not immediately return a call.
The Mocksville Town Board meets Tuesday, and Marklin said people are welcome to bring up Sgt. Butters’ fate then.
Sgt. Butters has played a role in softening the image of the police department, which was embroiled in controversy over the last decade.
In 2016, a jury awarded $4.1 million in damages to three former Mocksville police officers who said that former police chief Robert Cook and then town manager Christine Bralley fired them in 2011 because they reported allegations of corruption in the department to state officials.
Besides Sgt. Butters, the police department has had such community outreach programs as “Coffee with a Cop” and a citizens police academy that gives people an inside look at the day-to-day operations of the police force.
Police rescued Sgt. Butters in 2018 after spotting him hanging around the department. They nursed him back to health and let him stay at its offices on Main Street.