MPD: Five months in limbo
Jan. 1, 2002
The Meridian Police Department has been without a police chief for more than five months. Former Chief Gregg Lewis' last day was July 20.
Mayor John Robert Smith says the voters elected him to choose a police chief, and he will schedule a press conference when he has made a decision. In the meantime, he refuses to discuss who is under consideration or the selection process.
While the mayor pondered the decision:
Assistant Police Chief Benny DuBose was named acting chief. He and the mayor have discussed the possibility of DuBose assuming the job permanently.
The Meridian Star learned that Capt. Roger Welborn, Lt. John McAlister and Capt. Keith McCary all of the MPD were also candidates for the job. The mayor declined to comment.
McCary endorsed Dubose. No comment.
The MPD's patrol ranks became dangerously thin after Sept. 11 as members of the Mississippi National Guard were called up. At last count, the patrol divisions were 24 officers short. Officers report that they don't "patrol" anymore; they just run from one call to the next. Armed robberies rise. Morale plunges.
Police officers presented a petition to the mayor and city council asking that a new chief be appointed quickly and endorsing DuBose for the position. The mayor had no comment.
The Meridian Star learned that a lieutenant from the Charleston Police Department turned the job down. The mayor's comment was not solicited.
Many police officers, angry and vocal two months ago, seem now to have given up and the department has grown a "whatever" attitude.
As 2002 begins, the city has also been without a public works director since July 3 and trouble is brewing at the Meridian Fire Department, where firefighters are protesting an $8,000 raise awarded to Chief Bunky Partridge.