By Robbie Ward
TUPELO – Steven “Bart” Aguirre took the oath to serve as Tupelo’s police chief Monday, another promotion for a man who began his career volunteering for the Plantersville Police Department after waiting tables at his father’s restaurant.
Aguirre, 64, worked his way from Tupelo Police Department patrolman to head of criminal investigations and now leader of the city department of more than 100 officers.
Aguirre was nominated by Mayor Jason Shelton earlier this month to serve as police chief and officially took his oath of office Monday at City Hall. Along with his family, many officers from the Tupelo Police Department attended the ceremony, as well as law enforcement officers, prosecutors and others from around the region.
Aguirre takes the helm of a department with an annual budget of $9.4 million. He has managed 10 criminal investigations and served on an FBI task force that led to the city of Tupelo acquiring property through criminal forfeiture that may be used for law enforcement activities.
At a prayer breakfast earlier in the day, Aguirre was modest in describing his ascent to top of the police force.
“The Lord has opened up many doors of opportunity for me,” he told the gathering at the Police Athletic League. “That’s why I am where I am today.”
Aguirre is the 10th Tupelo police chief since 1923, following Tony Carleton, who recently accepted an assistant police chief position in Columbus and officially leaves the department Nov. 1.
Aguirre said part of the challenge in law enforcement includes preparing for the unexpected. He mentioned the wave of shootings in public places throughout the country in recent years as a problem facing law enforcement.
“We’re not immune from those kinds of things,” he said. “It’s all about trying to prepare for the unknown.”
Patrolmen, detectives and others working in the Tupelo Police Department certainly have an idea of what they’ll get with Aguirre as chief. Many officers have said Shelton choosing an officer from within the city ranks shows those starting out that the city rewards dedication and quality work.
Retired Tupelo Police Department Lt. Buddy Bell attended both the prayer breakfast and the swearing-in ceremony with his son, Sgt. Tim Bell. Seeing Aguirre taking over as police chief means the city values current officers on the force, Buddy Bell said.
“I’ve known him all these years and want him to know I support him,” Bell said.
Shelton, a close friend of one of Aguirre’s sons, said the new chief’s story of working his way as a patrolman and advancing in the department was a factor when selecting him for the job.
“One special quality to me is Chief Aguirre started off as a regular patrol officer and worked his way from the bottom to the top,” Shelton said during the swearing-in ceremony.