TUPELO – City Police Chief Harold Chaffin will retire in late December after 35 years on the force and seven as its commander.
He’s the second top official set to leave the department this year; Maj. Ronnie Thomas, the chief’s right-hand man, will retire at the end of this month.
The most recent announcement came Monday afternoon during a City Council work session at City Hall.
“Last week I received word from our Police Chief Harold Chaffin that he is retiring,” Mayor Jack Reed Jr. told the council. “His health has not been good for more than a year, and his job, as we all know, is a demanding one.”
Reed also said the city might soon take ownership of the old Milam Manufacturing facility on the corner of Front and Franklin streets, and that it could become the new police headquarters. The department’s current facilities are old and cramped.
The building was seized by federal and state agents in May as part of an investigation into contraband cigarettes. The Tupelo police force has been, and continues to be, involved in the investigation.
“This would seem to me to be an excellent location for the new police department that the city has had on the drawing board for some time,” Reed said before lauding Chaffin for his service.
Chaffin could not be reached for comment after the meeting.
According to City Council President Fred Pitts, the chief’s upcoming retirement was a decision prompted in part by the council.
Pitts said some members were uncomfortable with Reed’s intentions to reappoint Chaffin, along with other department heads, for another year of service.
“It wasn’t that we, by any means, said we won’t approve him,” Pitts said. “We went to him and said we have some concerns. They’re the same concerns a lot of people in the community have.”
Pitts referred to allegations made against the police department and its top officials during a federal court trial in July. He said other allegations also had emerged last year in a controversial ethics report that was commissioned by the city.
Thomas also had come under fire in both the ethics report and the federal trial, which the city lost. The trial was brought by former police Capt. Cliff Hardy, whom a jury decided had been illegally forced out of the department.
Reed declined to comment on the council’s concerns, saying only that Chaffin made his own decision and that he appreciates the chief’s service.
“He has made a lot of contributions to the city,” he said, “and our police force has done a good job in lots of ways.”
The search for a new chief will begin immediately, and Reed said he will consider candidates from both inside and outside the department.
Contact Emily Le Coz at (662) 678-1588 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Emily Le Coz/NEMS Daily Journal