CHARLOTTE, N.C. — CPI Security employees knelt for 8 minutes and 46 seconds on Thursday, honoring George Floyd’s life and sending a message to their CEO and President. They’re calling for change after a racially insensitive email written by Ken Gill, the CEO, was leaked to the public last week.
In the email, he suggests that working on police reform was not "productive" and that "better use of time would be to focus on black on black crime."
Since then major players in the Queen City have cut ties with the company.
“We do feel like there is a discriminatory undertone in the company and we would like to see that dispelled,” says Aamir Muhammad. He’s been working at CPI for two years.
Gill was a part of the event. Employees say he didn’t speak but he knelt in solidarity.
“We wanted to bring light and awareness to the fact that black lives really do matter. At the end of the day, I think we can all agree there is a big disparity as it relates to equality and justice for people of color,” said Kelley Phelps, a 21-year veteran of the company.
Gill sent the email to the Executive Director of Queen City Unity, Jorge Millares. Millares is also a former CPI employee. Gill’s message was in response to a call to end police brutality. He wrote, “A better use of time would be to focus on black on black crime and senseless killing of our young men by other young men.”
“That’s not the person who I’ve come to know over the last almost 21 years. So I was very confused but angry and frustrated and mad, especially in light of everything that’s going on in the nation,” says Phelps.
Gill has apologized but major companies, including the Panthers, Hornets, Knights, YMCA and Bojangles all severed ties with CPI.
Phelps tells WCNC Charlotte people of color make up at least 60 percent of the staff. They want to see that represented in management.
“I myself am a midlevel manager, I have questioned over the last couple of days why we don’t have anyone that’s brown or black within the executive team, in the senior management level,” she says.
Employees say they want to see a change that goes beyond this moment in time. Some are even pushing for Gill to take more responsibility and make donations to groups that can help facilitate change.
“As other corporations have made substantial donations to social justice, we feel CPI and Mr. Gill, due to the comments, are obligated to make a donation to social justice, to reform, and to stop the crime that exists between the police and black communities,” says Muhammad.
WCNC Charlotte reached out to CPI for further comment from Gill.
"Today, we were proud to kneel with our CPI Security employees. It was their thoughtful idea to hold a moment of silence - 8 minutes and 46 seconds - to honor George Floyd and so many others who lost their lives due to police brutality. Together we stand for racial justice and equality."