CATEGORY: Marshall County
Potts Camp hires female officer
By Cynthia M. Jeffries
POTTS CAMP – A Marshall County town has taken a historic step by hiring a woman to oversee its police department.
Officer Lisa McDonald has been getting acquainted with the townfolks and her new job since joining the department last month.
Potts Camp is the only town in Northeast Mississippi with a woman at the reigns of its police department. Though she was not given the title of police chief, McDonald has all of the responsibilities of the top law enforcement officer and receives the chief’s $18,000-a-year salary. And, like a chief, she answers directly to the mayor.
“In a small town like this, it’s hard for some people to see a woman police officer let alone a woman chief,” said Potts Camp Mayor Earnest Cruse.
As McDonald was introduced last month to students at Potts Camp Attendance Center, Cruse, Marshall County Sheriff Kenny Dickerson and Mississippi Highway Patrol officer Mike Shaw stood behind her and formed a sort of wall of support to show they would be there to back her when needed.
“It was a big step for a woman to be hired,” Cruse said. “I think it is a positive step.”
All told, there are 5,912 sworn, full-time officers in the state. The number of females among those officers is low, said Keith May, assistant director of Standards and Training at the Mississippi Law Enforcement Training Academy in Jackson.
An exact number of female officers or those in administrative positions was not available. The state does not keep separate figures for female officers, May said.
McDonald, 28, a graduate of Myrtle High School, worked for a little more than a year with the Holly Springs Police Department and was formerly a reserve officer with the University of Mississippi police force.
She said the biggest challenge she faces in Potts Camp will be speeders.
“I was told we were having a problem with our high school-age children and their driving,” McDonald said. “My primary goal is to provide protection and security for the residents.
“It’s a real nice little town. I’m enjoying it,” she said.
Crime is low in the south Marshall County town of about 600 people. Since being hired, McDonald has not made an arrest.
Last week, the Board of Aldermen hired Bill Rowland to assist McDonald as a part-time officer.
A hard find
Potts Camp has a recent history of changing police chiefs.
McDonald is the fourth person to work in the police department on a full-time basis since 1992.
Former Police Chief Joe Thomason was shot in the head and killed during a traffic stop in 1993.
A little more than a month later, Jim Coop was hired to fill the police chief’s slot. Coop, who now heads the K-9 Unit for the Marshall County Sheriff’s Department, quit 14 month later citing conflicts he had with the mayor over how the department should operate.
After a year of going without, the town hired Greg Hopper, 30, as its chief. Last November, Coop and the mayor apparently got into an altercation. Cruse was arrested for allegedly striking his chief in the face with a flashlight and charged with aggravated assault. The charge against Cruse has since been reduced to simple assault.
Hopper was placed on an administrative medical leave immediately after the incident and stay there for more than two months. He was fired Jan. 24 for refusing to submit his medical records to the Board of Aldermen.