Deputies often left to patrol all alone

TUPELO – When a domestic dispute call on County Road 45 came, Lee County Sheriff’s Deputy Mike Mayhew whipped his squad car around to respond.
Even though he was about 15 miles away from the residence and his nearest backup was even farther away, Mayhew immediately responded. Not having backup readily available is something Lee County deputies are accustomed to, said Sheriff Jim Johnson.
The Sheriff’s Department covers 450 square miles and 780 road miles daily with 15 deputies. Mayhew alone drives anywhere from 200 to 250 miles a day during his 12-hour shift.
“We’re out here by ourselves a lot,” said Mayhew. “Help could be 15 minutes or more away, so we have to deal with a lot of calls alone. That’s why as a deputy you’ve got to learn how to take control of a situation quickly because you’re not going to turn around every time and see your backup.”
When he made it to the call on County Road 45, it took his backup about seven minutes to arrive, good time for a deputy to receive backup.
Johnson said coverage in the county is a lot different than in the city due to several factors.
“The area we have to cover, the terrain we have to deal with, the lack of manpower, the fact there are no street lights and we are often working in low-populated areas make what we do a lot different than a city officer,” said Johnson. “Not to say our work is harder because they have some situations that are harder than ours. If they go to a disturbance at an apartment complex then they may have a mob of people they have to deal with. For us, it’s usually a small group.”
Johnson said the fact there are no traffic lights in the county to slow traffic also plays a factor in the way a deputy approaches the job.
In Tupelo’s city limits, there are usually 14 to 15 officers who cover 10 zones that span about 52 square miles. Backup is often only seconds away, according to Tupelo Police Maj. Jackie Clayton.
Mayhew spends a lot of time behind the wheel of his patrol car. He said some days he may not get any calls and some days he’s bombarded. But it’s what he calls the “hot calls” that worry him when he’s alone.
“Hot calls are the ones that have potential to be dangerous to the deputy,” he said. “You’re going into a situation and you have no idea what’s going on. If I go to a call, I immediately assess the situation and take control of it. That could mean being a person’s buddy until my help arrives.”
On top of already having to work with limited backup, Mayhew said nightfall brings about different problems.
“It’s hard to find addresses in the dark and most hot calls happen at night,” he said. “So when it gets dark we use extra precautions.”
Despite all the disadvantages he faces on a daily work day, Mayhew said he still loves his job.
“When I wake up I’m ready for work,” said Mayhew. “I look forward to it. I love being on the road and helping people.”

Contact Danza Johnson at (662) 678-1583 or danza.johnson@djournal.com.

Danza Johnson/NEMS Daily Journal