Booneville searches for new police chief

By Lena Mitchell/NEMS Daily Journal

BOONEVILLE – Senior officers within the Booneville Police Department have been invited to indicate whether they’re interested in assuming the role of interim police chief after the firing on Tuesday of Chief Steve Bingham.
Bingham and police dispatcher Will Rowzee were dismissed in a special meeting of the city board following a closed-door discussion of the personnel matter in executive session, said city attorney Daniel Tucker.
Officials said they were not at liberty to discuss particulars of why the two men were fired. However, each may file a grievance to the mayor appealing the action. Rowzee is attending police academy training and was not in town when the action was taken.
Captains and other senior officers within the department were asked to express their interest in serving as interim chief, said Mayor Joe Eaton. The Board of Aldermen was expected to discuss an interim appointment in executive session before a budget work session Wednesday night.
The office of Booneville police chief has been in flux for several years.
Former chief Tim Fortenberry resigned in August 2009 after the Board of Aldermen voted not to reappoint him. He was initially appointed chief in 2003, and in 2007 the board voted 3-2 not to reappoint him. However, there was no vote to terminate him and Fortenberry continued to serve.
Bingham was then appointed to the job in October 2009, three months after he was fired from the chief’s job in West Point. He later instituted a lawsuit against West Point selectmen, saying he was fired on the basis of race.
Before joining the West Point department, Bingham had been police chief in Clarksdale, a position from which he also was fired.
During the interim between Fortenberry’s departure and Bingham’s hiring, Capt. Michael Ramey of the detectives division served as interim chief.
Last year two Booneville aldermen floated the idea of having a public meeting to gauge sentiment for having an elected chief of police. However, the mayor said he strongly opposed such a move and would veto the idea if it passed. Override of a veto would require votes of four aldermen.
Neither Bingham nor Rowzee could be reached Wednesday for comment.
lena.mitchell@journalinc.com