By Emily Le Coz/NEMS Daily Journal
TUPELO – The city will send an entourage of Robert Hall supporters to Pearl today in an effort to win back the deputy police chief’s law enforcement certificate.
Hall, who was rehired to his former position in March, faces a potentially lengthy hearing before the 13-member Board on Law Enforcement Officer Standards and Training at its office near Jackson.
He must persuade the group to reissue the certificate he relinquished upon resigning from the police force in 2007 amid legal problems.
The process could last anywhere from 45 minutes to all day.
Joining him at the hearing will be Mayor Jack Reed Jr., current Police Chief Tony Carleton and former Police Chief Billy White.
White also is the director of the Public Safety Planning Division of the Mississippi Department of Public Safety – the same division that handles police certification through its Office of Standards and Training.
“We think that will help to have him with us,” Reed said.
In addition, Hall’s private attorney, Jim Waide, and former colleague, Cliff Hardy, also are expected to appear, but not as part of the city team.
City attorney John Hill will represent Hall as his legal counsel. His participation in the hearing will be unusual; most who go before the board have no legal counsel, and if they do, it rarely comes from a city’s attorney.
“I’m not saying it’s never been done,” said Office of Standards and Training Director Robert Davis, “but I don’t typically see the city attorney representing the individual.”
Hill’s participation drew complaints from at least two City Council members about attorneys fees; Hill will charge his normal municipal rate of $120 per hour for the hearing.
“I think it should be Robert Hall’s responsibility to secure the certificate at his cost and not to be paid for by the taxpayers,” said Ward 1 Councilman Markel Whittington, a longtime critic of Hall’s rehiring, in part because he lacks certification.
Ward 6 Councilman Mike Bryan said he’ll vote against paying any legal fees related to the hearing.
Added Ward 3 Councilman Jim Newell: “If we would have went through the right hiring practices and checked out his certification up front, then the taxpayers wouldn’t have to be responsible for this burden today.”
State law requires law enforcement officers to be certified by the BLEOST. The certificate proves that all training and policy requirements have been met.
Without it, a person has no arrest powers, and agencies have no right to pay them as law enforcement officers.
Hall had a certificate during his first 25-year stint with the Tupelo Police Department. But he relinquished it after pleading guilty in the Lee County Circuit Court to two misdemeanors – accessory after the fact and obstruction of justice by information in connection with his releasing a hit-and-run suspect in May 2006.
He resigned immediately after entering the pleas.
The driver in that incident was later charged and served time in prison.
Now Hall and his supporters must convince the board that his exemplary record before the resignation outweighs the negativity of his criminal charges.
His legal representation and city backing don’t necessarily tip the scale in his favor.
“The board looks at each case on an individual basis,” Davis said.
And it could be a tough sell.
According to the BLEOST, certificates typically are denied when an officer is convicted of a felony or a crime involving moral turpitude, which the standards board defines as any conduct “contrary to justice, honesty, honor, modesty or good morals that would tend to disrupt or diminish or otherwise jeopardize public trust and fidelity in law enforcement.”
The agency’s office already denied Hall’s first request to have his certificate reinstated. That was in August. Today’s hearing is the appeal to that decision.
If the board denies the certificate today, the city’s last recourse is an appeal through the Lee County Chancery Court.
NEMS Daily Journal reporter Danza Johnson will be at the hearing and NEMS360.com will report what happens as soon as it happens. Check back later for more information.