Drive, focus, prayer lead Itawamba County lawman daily

Adam Armour | Buy at photos.itawambatimes.com Lt. Mike Newlin was recently named Crimestoppers of Northeast Mississippi's Law Enforcement Officer of the Year.

Adam Armour | Buy at photos.itawambatimes.com
Lt. Mike Newlin was recently named Crimestoppers of Northeast Mississippi’s Law Enforcement Officer of the Year.

By Adam Armour

Itawamba County Times

FULTON – On March 24, 2011, four hours into his first shift as a criminal investigator, Lt. Mike Newlin had a murder on his hands.

He was sitting at home, playing the board game Aggravation with his wife and cousin, when the call came in that Fred and Joy House of Fulton had been stabbed to death in their home. Newlin hadn’t even received his investigator certification training yet. He was as fresh as they come. Deep end, meet Mike Newlin.

“I’ll never forget that day,” Newlin, recently named Crime Stoppers of Northeast Mississippi’s Law Enforcement Officer of the Year, said. “After a short prayer, I asked myself, ‘What do I do now?’ But we have a saying here: ‘Know our limitations and outwork our deficiencies.’ You focus on what you have to do. When I pulled up to that crime scene, I just started doing what I had to do.”

It’s this kind of commitment to his job that always has impressed Itawamba County Sheriff Chris Dickinson, who nominated Newlin for the award.

“What I see in Newlin is an inner drive and determination,” Dickinson said. “I knew the type of work he would produce based on how meticulous he is. He is very deserving of this award.”

Crime Stoppers of Northeast Mississippi is a branch of the national Crime Stoppers organization – a network of local programs that work together to prevent and solve crimes in communities and schools across the country.

Newlin began working as an ICC campus officer in 2004, simultaneously serving as a part-time reserve officer with the Fulton Police Department as a way to get his foot in the door. He was later hired as a full-time deputy with the Itawamba County Sheriff’s Department under Sheriff Phillip Crane. Even as a patrolman, Newlin enjoyed the more fastidious aspects of the job: Going to crime scenes, taking reports, mulling over the information.

“Being a criminal investigator has always been my dream. I had a dream and was able to follow it. I’m one of the lucky ones,” he said. “I love the puzzle … finding the pieces and putting them together. Putting the puzzle together is the challenge; satisfaction comes from seeing everything pulled together. All the pieces are always there. And the ultimate reward in the end is justice for the victims.”

As much as he loves it, there are times when the job can try Newlin’s patience. Nothing is more frustrating than when a trail runs cold … when that next piece of the puzzle just doesn’t seem to manifest itself.

“All of a sudden, you’ll hit a dead end and have to go back to square one,” Newlin said. “But you can’t quit. I wouldn’t want someone to quit on me.”

Spread this kind of stop-and-go work over multiple cases, and it’s basically what Newlin deals with daily. Leads dry up on one case, so he might turn his attention to another.

Crime doesn’t slow down, he said, so neither does he.

“You have to follow the cases as they come to you,” he said. “The pace is kind of set for you. Everything is always at a steady pace, which never stops. You’re always working on multiple cases; that’s where good resolve and good paperwork come in.”

Each case, he added, is important. They don’t all have the intricacies and sheer bulk of a multiple murder, but they all involve someone seeking justice.

“Every case is important to me,” he said. “There are cases that may take more work than others, but they are all equally important.”

While he said he loves being recognized for doing his job (“This means the world to me,” he said of receiving the award), Newlin added that every single member of his department is working just as hard as he is, seeking that same justice he’s seeking.

“I could sit here and tell you great things about every officer in this building,” he said.

adam.armour@journalinc.com