Manpower at the MPD
Oct. 14, 2001
The most-talked about news in the crime and courts beat continues to be manpower at the Meridian Police Department where some positions are still vacant, some are newly vacant and others will feature different faces by the end of the month.
Kind of like musical
chairs, but serious
It comes as no surprise that many police officers are also members of the Mississippi National Guard. Our current national crisis comes at a bad time for a department already 17 officers short in its patrol division.
Acting Chief Benny DuBose said earlier this week at least 15 MPD employees are reservists. Four have already been called to active duty.
As fate would have it, October also marks the annual "re-bidding" of the patrol shifts. There are three eight-hour watches: A Shift works 7 a.m.-3 p.m.; B Shift works 3 p.m.-11 p.m.; C Shift works 11 p.m.-7 a.m.
In October, patrol officers bid for the shift they want in the coming year. Each shift is made up of a captain at the top of the chain of command, followed by a lieutenant, a sergeant and a number of patrol officers. Assignments in the re-bidding process are based on seniority, and the changes take effect Oct. 31.
This year's re-bidding was complicated by the resignations of several patrol officers and Sgt. David Moffett of A Shift, a front-line supervisor. His last day was Friday.
To compensate for the hole in the line-up, Sgt. Joe Hoadley will move from the Criminal Investigation Division to patrol, and Lt. Wade Johnson currently the department's crime prevention officer and media spokesman will move to investigation.
Dragging it out
a piece at a time
Speaking of holes in the line-up, we haven't had a police chief since early July although DuBose is widely acknowledged to be doing a good job keeping it between the ditches.
The last time Mayor John Robert Smith returned a phone call from me, he said he hoped to fill the vacancy by mid- to late September. The mayor has also consistently declined to comment on who is under consideration or what process he is going through to choose a new chief.
It leaves me to do the story piecemeal, which is not my preference. The only thing I can do is keep my ears open. When I hear an officer has interviewed for the position, I call him up and ask him to verify it. If he does, I write a story about it. Of concern to me is the fact that I may be missing someone. All candidates should have an equal chance to let people know they are in the running.
To date, The Meridian Star has reported on the candidacy of Acting Chief Benny DuBose, Capt. Roger Welborn and Lt. John McAlister. I understand on good authority that Capt. Keith McCary has also submitted his resume for consideration, and I will be trying to reach him in the coming week.
Are there others?
A rumor making the rounds is that a candidate from outside Meridian is being seriously interviewed. I don't know that I believe that one. "There's not a single officer over there good enough to be chief" would be an unfortunate message to send an already stressed and demoralized police department.
The Civil Service Commission
and the November grand jury
The Meridian Star is following two developing stories involving the Civil Service Commission: 1) Former police officer Rita Jack's appeal of her Sept. 14 termination; and 2) Former Capt. Richard Mackey, who is appealing his Sept. 21 termination from the Meridian Fire Department.
Jack was fired after an Internal Affairs committee's investigation of thefts of cash and checks at the police station's front desk between February and May 2001. Jack has not been charged with a crime, although an investigation to consider criminal charges is still under way.
Mackey was suspended for 30 days, and ultimately fired, after he was arrested for aggravated assault in connection with an Aug. 22 incident at or near his home on Pine Springs Road.
Both former employees deny any wrong-doing, and no indictments have been issued in either case.
Mackey is represented by two Meridian attorneys, Dan Self and Robert Jones. They have asked for, and received, a delay in consideration of Mackey's appeal until after a Lauderdale County grand jury meets in November.
Self and Jones noted in a letter to the commission that the "complaining parties have appeared at the district attorney's office, and have recanted their version of the facts or expressed a desire to withdraw any and all allegations against Mr. Mackey."
This is true; I verified it through the sheriff's department. What effect withdrawal of charges or lack of indictment could have on the commission's decision is difficult to say.
In the police case, Jackson attorney Felicia Perkins has secured a Nov. 15 hearing for Rita Jack which is a little awkward. The grand jury convenes on Nov. 12, and it is unlikely that the commission will know by the following Thursday whether an indictment against Jack is coming.
We will follow both stories until their resolution.
Suzanne Monk is managing editor of The Meridian Star. Call her at 693-1551, ext. 3229, or e-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org.