By Emily Le Coz/NEMS Daily Journal
TUPELO – Despite earlier statements the city would have a new assistant police chief, the department’s top official said Monday the position will be eliminated.
Police Chief Tony Carleton told the City Council it’s a budget-saving measure. The position, which has been vacant since the abrupt departure of Robert Hall in November, carries a $59,000 salary. Carleton had said at the time he would hire a replacement, but that never happened.
“That is another position we just sucked it up on to get to a balanced budget,” said Mayor Jack Reed Jr., who also attended the council’s work session at City Hall.
The council has held several such meetings since the beginning of August to create Tupelo’s next fiscal year budget plan.
Carleton said the department could function without an assistant chief, but Ward 7 Councilman Willie Jennings disagreed.
“I think that position helped with good communication with the public,” Jennings said. “Neighborhoods are the heart of the city. If we don’t have friendly officers to meet with the people, communication is going to break down.”
Carleton did say he could use six extra patrol officers, explaining the city has three to four fewer officers per shift than it did two years ago.
Officers “are really pulling together and working close with a short number,” Carleton said, “but we are short.