Okolona seeks opinion on volunteer police officers

By Floyd Ingram/Chickasaw Journal

OKOLONA – Who will have the final say on who can wear a uniform and carry a gun for the City of Okolona will be decided by the Mississippi Attorney General.

The Okolona Board of Mayor and Aldermen will seek an Attorney General’s opinion to determine if they have the power to say who can be a volunteer police officer after it was brought to the board’s attention some volunteers were wearing Okolona Police Department uniforms, riding in city police vehicles and carrying weapons.

City Attorney Gene Barton pointed out Okolona Police Chief Tommy Ivy is an elected official and has the authority to run his department as necessary and allowed by law.

“We have received reports volunteer policemen are in uniform, in police cars and are wearing guns,” said Okolona Mayor Louise Floyd-Cole. “Can they do that?”

Chief Lee said he does not allow just anybody to be volunteer police officer, they don’t routinely patrol or answer calls and all can qualify at the local gun-range and be allowed to carry a weapon.

Lee pointed out the Chickasaw Sheriff’s Department has a number of volunteer deputies who routinely ride with officers and serve the county.

“We use these volunteers at football games, the Christmas parade and other community events,” said Lee. “They can qualify to carry a weapon by going out to the range and passing a state firearms test.”

Lee said volunteers could work as police officers in this manner for two years before they must obtain state police academy training.

Ward 1 Alderman Kenneth McVey said all city employees are supposed to be approved by aldermen. He also expressed a concern over the city’s liability in this matter.

“They are reserve officers and are not paid,” said Lee. “We have people knocking people in the head around here and I need help. This is not costing the city anything.”

Lee said volunteers are covered by his department’s insurance policy.

Ward 3 Alderman Eldridge Lowe said he did not want reserve officers in a city car, wearing a uniform and carrying a weapon.

“If they look like a police officer for the City of Okolona, we are responsible,” said Lowe. “This needs to be resolved.”

City Attorney Gene Barton said he would submit a request to the Mississippi Attorney General on who had the final authority to allow volunteer police officers to work for the city, what the requirements were for carrying a weapon and what training was required to serve as a volunteer police officer.