Law enforcement transitions in progress

By Danza Johnson/NEMS Daily Journal

TUPELO – Outgoing sheriffs in Pontotoc and Monroe counties have less than a month to make the transitions for their replacements as smooth as possible.
Pontotoc County Sheriff Neal Davis and Monroe County Sheriff Andy Hood were unseated in the November general election. Leo Mask takes over Jan. 1 in Pontotoc County and Cecil Cantrell takes over in Monroe.
Davis, who unseated Mask in 2008, said December will be a time of preparation and stress for him and his staff. Incoming sheriffs often replace much of the current staff, just as Davis did with Mask’s staff in 2008. He retained about half of the 34 employees.
“It’s a little stressful for the employees not knowing if they will be without a job after Jan. 1,” Davis said. “But we are still working hard to make sure his transition in will be a smooth one. We just want to try to close as many of our open cases as we can and prepare the others good enough where they can work them.”
Mask said he doesn’t know yet how many people he will retain from the current staff but said he will work the pending cases as if he was there when they were started.
Cantrell, who has never been a sheriff, plans to retain a lot of the current staff.
“I think it’s important we keep a lot of those guys because they know those cases and have worked them,” he said. “Of course, there will be some changes in staff and other areas, but we will conduct business professionally. The important thing is that we want the people to know just because a new sheriff is in doesn’t mean their old cases will be forgotten, because they won’t be.”
Cantrell said he will make sure all cases get a new look.
Mask, who currently is Verona’s police chief, has loose ends to tie up before he takes his new post.
“I’m going to leave this office just like I’m coming in to work the next day,” said Mask, who handles 90 percent of Verona’s investigations. “My job now is to make it easier for the next person to come in. And I’ll be right down the road if they need my help on any old cases.”
Mask said he’ll still be going to court on cases in 2012.
Verona Mayor Bobby Williams said officials plan to have a new chief hired soon.
danza.johnson@journalinc.com