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Despite ruling, patrolmen apparently here to stay

By By Sheila Blackmon/The Meridian Star
Jan. 12, 2001
Regardless of a decision Thursday by the state Board of Minimum Standards and Training, it looks like Lauderdale County patrolmen are here to stay.
An attempt to let voters decide was thwarted Thursday as District 3 Supervisor Craig Hitt's effort to get the issue on the next ballot was rejected by other members of the board.
Hitt suggested the issue be placed on ballots in Lauderdale County along with the state flag vote, now scheduled April 17. He said employing county patrolmen is a controversial matter resulting in numerous calls from people in his district and some from people in other districts who want the system changed.
While supervisors discussed the issue here in Meridian, the Board of Minimum Standards and Training met in Hattiesburg reviewing Lauderdale County patrolmen's certifications.
Hitt said county residents see what patrolmen do on a daily basis so they should be able to decide whether county patrolmen are needed.
Smith told him if he didn't want one in his district, Smith would support that, but he didn't want to do away with all the patrolmen because "they're out there riding the roads, checking for liabilities, reporting them to the road crews and making sure things are getting done, and I think that's important."
Hitt said he thinks it's important, too, but "we don't need five of them. Other counties have three."
Smith said the state board's decision against the patrolmen's retaining certification as law officers would have no impact on his opinion.
He said losing their law enforcement certification will not limit the patrolmen's duties. He said they can still patrol, monitor and even write tickets. He compared their role to a Mississippi Department of Transportation position in that they "ride the roads" looking for missing road signs or large potholes.
When asked whether their duties overlap road manager Neal Carson's, Smith said, "They don't. Neal doesn't have time to ride the roads." He said Carson is responsible for overseeing maintenance crews at work, not patrolling all the county's roads for problems.
The other three supervisors did not directly respond to Hitt's request, but Hitt later said he does not think they support putting the matter to a vote.
He said he does not plan to terminate the county patrolman in District 3, but he is "open to new possibilities" for the role such as using county patrolmen for animal control.
Sheila Blackmon is a staff writer for The Meridian Star. E-mail her at sblackmon@themeridianstar.com.

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