Ken Gill, CEO and founder of CPI Security of Charlotte, N.C., is facing backlash after allegedly racist remarks included in an email to a community organizer.
Jorge Millares, leader of the Queen City Unity organization, sent a mass email to the Charlotte community calling for action in response to George Floyd’s death. Ken Gill was one of the recipients of the email, and responded to Millares on June 5, saying, “Please spend your time in a more productive way. A better use of time, would be to focus on the black on black crime and senseless killing of our young men by other young men.”
On the same day that Gill sent this email to Millares, CPI Security shared a very different message on its Twitter: “CPI stands against racism and discrimination of any kind, and we are actively supporting solutions like the new CMPD de-escalation training facility that will bring positive change to our community. In addition, CPI fully supports the community and our country calling for racial equality and justice. CPI Security works tirelessly to make our communities safer for everyone. We take a great deal of pride in our inclusive culture and in protecting the families and diverse communities we serve.”
Millares shared Gill’s email on Facebook, calling it “insensitive and racist” and creating the hashtag #BoycottCPI.
In response, the Carolina Panthers, Charlotte Hornets, Charlotte Knights, NC State Athletics and Gamecock Athletics ended their partnerships with CPI. The YMCA of Greater Charlotte will no longer name a new facility after Gill, and Charlotte-based restaurant chain Bojangles issued a statement saying it is dropping CPI service for its support center and more than 300 stores.
“Bojangles stands against racism and injustice of any kind,” Bojangles CEO Jose Armario said in a statement.
“CPI has been a long-term partner but, upon reflection, we feel that it is right to end our agreement,” the Carolina Panthers stated.
“Our chairman (Michael Jordan) has been very clear about his thoughts surrounding the issues of racial equality, social justice and diversity,” the Hornets said in a statement. “We believe it is appropriate at this time to end our partnership with CPI.”
CPI tweeted in response to the backlash on June 5.
“I want to apologize for my response to an email from a former employee that failed to directly address the need for racial justice and equality in the wake of George Floyd’s senseless killing,” the tweet, signed by Gill, read. “I have listened to the feedback, and now more than ever realize the need for continued dialog to help end racism within our community. Working alongside our diverse employee base and community partners, I remain committed to being part of the solution.”
Many Twitter users replied to the message, saying they planned on changing their security provider, sharing the hashtag #BoycottCPI and asking for Gill’s resignation.
On Friday, dozens of workers walked out of the CPI office after finding out about Gill's comments. Some of them never came back as a sign of their resignation.
On June 9, CPI Security sent an email to all employees and customers that included a video of Gill apologizing.
“The other day I made a big mistake, and I deeply regret it,” Gill said. “I understand that my words hurt people, and for that I am deeply sorry. I have taken the last few days to reflect and listen. I am committed to do my part to end violence, systemic racism against black and underserved communities.”
The email, signed by Gill, also listed three changes CPI plans on making in the wake of this backlash:
- The company has begun small group discussions to understand the effects of racism, and consultants will help employees through "a process of discovery, assessment and recommended actions to help with inclusivity." There will also be employee town halls, and the company created an internal email address for employees to send constructive feedback to.
- CPI will make additional contributions to businesses that "thwart the continued acts of violence and systemic racism against the black community."
- The company is going to continue its efforts to strengthen relationships between police and the communities they serve.
The email concluded by saying these were just the first steps in what the company hopes is continued change.
CPI was named as SDM’s dealer of the year in 2000 and 2019. With 756 employees, the company boasted $133,991,000 in 2019, and is ranked No. 9 on the SDM 100.
In response to SDM's request for comment, CPI Security sent a copy of the email that was sent to employees and customers on June 9.