TUPELO – Until Deputy Police Chief Robert Hall obtains state law enforcement certification, some City Council members want him demoted to a trainee officer.
The move would cost Hall nearly $30,000 a year in salary and, warned some officials, could put the city at risk for renewed racial tension.
“If we do not handle this right, Tupelo’s going to be a in a serious situation, I’m telling you,” said Ward 4 Councilwoman Nettie Davis.
The discussion came during council’s budget meeting Wednesday. Earlier in the day, Police Chief Tony Carleton said the department had submitted an application for Hall’s recertification.
Ward 3 Councilman Jim Newell and Ward 6 Councilman Mike Bryan criticized the city for allowing Hall to remain on the police force as second in command without certification.
“If an officer’s not certified, he’s deemed a trainee,” Newell said. “It’s hard to pay him $59,500 if he’s a trainee, so he’d fall into the window of an Officer 1.”
The council controls the city’s budget, but the mayor and department heads oversee administrative decisions like demotions.
Mayor Jack Reed Jr. said he has no intention of demoting Hall, who was rehired to the department in March after resigning amid controversy in 2007.
Hall, who is black, had pleaded guilty to misdemeanor charges in connection with his having released a hit-and-run suspect in 2006. The incident, subsequent investigation and criminal charges sparked claims from the black community that Hall was treated unfairly because of his race.
The council’s two minority members warned their colleagues that if they demoted Hall, they risked igniting another racial uproar.
“We need to handle this very cautiously,” Davis said. “It would look awful to demote him down to a Level 1. I just think you need to leave him alone.”
Echoing those concerns was Ward 7 Councilman Willie Jennings, who said the city needed to allow the recertification process to unfold.
Hall has two years from the time he was hired to obtain certification. It’s unclear what will happen if he does not.
Contact Emily Le Coz at (662) 678-1588 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Emily Le Coz/NEMS Daily Journal