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The wrong ditch

By Staff
Jan. 14, 2001
Lauderdale County supervisors are hunkering down in the wrong ditch over their defense of their absurd practice of employing County Patrolmen.
At the current time, both in custom and in practice, each member of the board has his own uniformed officer, complete with badge, weapon and patrol car with flashing emergency, law enforcement-type lights and siren.
Duty defined
Their duty as defined by state law is to inspect county roads for hazardous conditions. While the five persons currently employed as patrolmen are experienced in law enforcement, their patrols seek potholes and damaged signs, not law breakers.
Are Lauderdale County Patrolmen law enforcement officers or not?
The State Board on Minimum Standards and Training, a public body charged with establishing and reviewing law enforcement personnel qualifications, effectively passed the buck on this question to the Attorney General.
That board's action came even after Sheriff Billy McGee of Forrest County, a member, said, "The board is of the opinion that they (County Patrolmen) are not law enforcement officers as per the Mississippi statute."
The standards board declared the patrolmen "not certified" and then waffled by conditioning this action pending investigation by the Attorney General's Office.
Pothole patrol
So now the voters of Lauderdale County have pothole patrol services that are neither necessary nor certified. And, county patrolmen still carry their guns and badges.
The certification controversy offers the board of supervisors another chance to correct this outrageous situation. It is time to shift these officers to the supervision of the Sheriff's Department, a move which would get the board of supervisors out of this ditch and on to more important matters.
In the alternative, Attorney General Mike Moore should make a decisive finding that ends this wasteful practice in this county once and for all.