By Emily Le Coz/NEMS Daily Journal
TUPELO – The U.S. Department of Justice will interview top Tupelo officials Wednesday concerning hiring practices and procedures in the Police Department.
City attorney John Hill said the federal agency contacted Tupelo three weeks ago seeking a meeting. Justice representatives would not provide details about the visit except to say it would determine whether further inquiry is needed, Hill said.
“The communication was pretty short and sweet,” he added. “She said they weren’t on a witch hunt, that was her term.”
Hill identified the representative as Toni Jackson. According to an Internet search, the Justice Department has a senior trial attorney named Toni Michelle Jackson who has investigated claims of employment discrimination in other cities.
“I learned Friday,” said Police Chief Tony Carleton. “They just said they wanted to meet with us. They didn’t say there was a problem or that anybody was under investigation or anything.”
Both Carleton and Mayor Jack Reed Jr. said they look forward to the meeting.
Also scheduled to meet Justice officials is former police Capt. Cliff Hardy, who won a lawsuit against the city two years ago for discrimination.
“I think it’s a pretty big deal,” Hardy said. “It ain’t every the federal government comes to investigate.”
It’s unclear who else might be interviewed. Hill said the agency didn’t provide that kind of information to him.
He did say that whatever the feds’ concerns, he believes they likely stem from the Police Department’s previous administration led by Harold Chaffin, who stepped down in December 2009.
With the exception of bringing on Robert Hall as assistant police chief, Carleton hasn’t made any other full-time hires since taking office in January 2010. Hall resigned months later.