By Emily Le Coz/NEMS Daily Journal
TUPELO – Dozens of residents packed City Hall on Tuesday to support Deputy Police Chief Robert Hall’s return to the municipal payroll.
Hall, who had left the police force in 2007, was rehired by Chief Tony Carleton last month amid controversy.
Some City Council members publicly opposed Hall’s return because he had pleaded guilty to misdemeanor charges. The charges were filed in connection with his release of an intoxicated hit-and-run driver set to be jailed.
But community members said this week that Hall deserves a second chance and is qualified for the high-level job. Some said the council acted inappropriately by voicing concerns about Hall.
“We feel like Robert getting his job back was the right thing to do, because he was very good at his job before they got rid of him,” said Tupelo resident Mildred Bell, one of many people in the council chambers.
Said Lucille Partlow: “I feel like he’s qualified, and he deserves a second chance. Everybody needs a second chance.”
Before the May 2006 hit-and-run incident, Hall had served 25 years on the police force and received numerous promotions and accolades.
Kenneth Mayfield, a Tupelo attorney, suggested the council’s concerns about Hall stemmed not from his misdemeanor charges but because Hall is black.
Mayfield was representing a group called the Coalition of African-American Organizations, which handed out a resolution “urging all council members who opposed Mr. Hall to cease and desist all rhetoric and/or actions that are designed to intimidate Mr. Hall … .”
And while Mayfield praised the city for recent minority hires and appointments, he said the municipal work force doesn’t yet truly reflect the population.
“Look at the affirmative action plan adopted in 1978 and put it back on the table,” Mayfield told the council.
Human Resources Department Director Cassandra Moore said the city doesn’t currently adhere to an affirmative action plan but it could if directed by the council.
The city’s previous plan, which was in effect for about 20 years, set goals to hire a certain percentage of minorities. It also required the city to issue monthly progress reports toward that goal.
“I think the current council and mayor are trying hard to meet the needs of the community,” said Daniel McCollum, who ministers at the Green Street Church of Christ and was also at the meeting. “But they need more help, particularly in the hiring of minorities to high-level positions.”
Contact Emily Le Coz at (662) 678-1588 or firstname.lastname@example.org.