In an interview with Daily Journal reporter Emily Le Coz last week, Tupelo Mayor Jack Reed Jr. talked about the internal decisions that led to Robert Hall’s rehiring by Police Chief Tony Carleton and why the certification denial came as a surprise.
Q: Whose idea was it to rehire Robert Hall?
A: It was Tony Carleton’s decision.
Q: Some people believe you hired Carleton in December 2009 contingent on him eventually hiring Hall. Is that true?
A: Chief Carleton and I have been absolutely clear when we’ve been asked this, and I’m telling you, there was no agreement – no deal struck. … I said (to Carleton), “It’s up to you to select your leadership team.”
Q: When did Carleton first mention the idea of rehiring Hall?
A: During (his job) interview, actually it was our second interview, one of the things he mentioned to me was, he said, “I don’t think there is trust in the black community with the Tupelo Police Department, and I think the absolute quickest way to get that back is to bring Robert Hall back.”
One of the ways Chief Carleton was looking at it, and I support him, is that a lot of crime in Tupelo is black-on-black crime. Information and trust that the Police Department has within the black community has an impact on the whole community on solving those crimes.
For example, the double homicide (in April) in the black community where a suspect was arrested in eight hours – the information that helped locate the suspect came from citizens in the black community who were cooperating with our Police Department to solve it. That’s an example of what Chief Carleton was hoping to address in bringing Mr. Hall back.
Q: What was your reaction to Carleton’s plan?
A: I asked him one question … “Are you convinced that having (Hall) come back will help us protect, defend and keep safe our city?” And he said, “I really do (and) I need someone to help me with the training you asked me to do, and he had been here for 18 years, he knows the department, he’s had leadership training now at CDF and has been through the Toyota leadership program, and he could do a great job in helping me put into action these training opportunities for us.”
Q: Did you expect a certain amount of opposition to this idea, given Hall’s past?
A: (Carleton) said this may cost you some votes or may be unpopular with some people, and I said, “Well, I am not interested in seeking controversy, but if you think this is the right thing to do, I’ll support you on it.” I’m certainly disappointed (in the strong negative reaction), but I think part of that may have come from an incomplete understanding of the circumstances in which (Hall) left. I know when I’ve been asked about it, I’d say 80 percent of the people were surprised to learn that the (man) that was driving the car that hit the boy on the bicycle was, in fact, still arrested, tried and served time in Parchman. It wasn’t like Robert let him go free. He let him go home that night, but the investigation continued. So justice was done.
Q: When did the topic of certification come up? And when did it register as far as it being a potential problem?
A: This was the biggest tragedy of all. Chief Carleton really did his due diligence on this, and I accepted it through him because it made sense. Before he asked Mr. Hall to return to the city … the police chief, and Mr. Hall also, called Mr. Billy White, who was the director of the Division of Public Safety Planning (at the Mississippi Department of Public Safety) and asked, “If we bring Mr. Hall back, we’ll need to get him recertified. He has two misdemeanors and what do you think about that?” Mr. White told Chief Carleton that, “I see no problem if you, the chief, want him back. They bring people back frequently who had misdemeanors on their records.” Robert Hall called him and asked him the same thing. He told Robert the same thing. He anticipated no problem.
Obviously in retrospect … if (White) had said, “I don’t think you could get recertified,” Chief Carleton would have never asked him to come back.
Q: Now what?
A: The city just moves forward. My responsibilities are exactly the same: to provide citizens the safest city I can. The biggest tragedy is for Mr. Hall himself to have left an excellent job which has been refilled since then at Toyota. This is a man who has faced death as a Tupelo policeman as he was breaking up a drug situation one night – he has given that kind of service to the city and 18 years without a single incident other than “well done.” He’s been through a lot. I think he has handled himself with grace under pressure. I certainly wish him well in the next chapter in his life, and I wish Chief Carleton well. I wish our city well, and I wish all of our citizens well.
EMILY LE COZ / NEMS Daily Journal