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Peterson to deputies: You don't need permission to do your job

Video: Harrison County Sheriff Troy Peterson swears in his agency

Harrison County Sheriff Troy Peterson administers the oath of office to his uniformed officers and staff after being sworn in himself on Monday, January 3, 2016, at the Lyman Community Center in Gulfport.
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Harrison County Sheriff Troy Peterson administers the oath of office to his uniformed officers and staff after being sworn in himself on Monday, January 3, 2016, at the Lyman Community Center in Gulfport.

LYMAN -- Harrison County Sheriff Troy Peterson on Monday, his first day in office, told deputies he wants them to be the first to offer help to any other law enforcement agency or person needing assistance.

"You don't need permission to do your job," Peterson said before a standing-room-only crowd at the Lyman Community Center.

He also assured deputies and support personnel they will receive opportunities to advance.

"You have the ability to advance, not because of who you know, not because of who knows you, not because of the color of your skin or who your uncle or aunt is. You have the ability to advance because of who you are."

Further, he said, "I want you to treat the citizens of Harrison County as you want to be treated yourself."

He made the remarks after he was sworn in a second time Monday and then administered the oath of office to his uniformed officers and staff.

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Top leaders named

Peterson released names of his administrative staff to the Sun Herald and said he has eliminated two of four major positions.

His administrative team is comprised by Chief Deputy Ron Pullen, Major of Operations Thomas Clifford Jr., Major of Training

Louis Elias and Senior Captain of Operations Phil Marr.

Peterson had 23 years' experience with the sheriff's office before he left the department in July 2014 to run for sheriff after then-Sheriff Melvin Brisolara announced he was retiring. Brisolara changed his mind. Peterson beat Brisolara in the Aug. 25 run-off.

Circuit Judge Chris Schmidt swore-in Peterson on Monday morning at the county courthouse in Gulfport and again Monday afternoon in the presence of sheriff's office employees.

Peterson's first official duty was attending a Board of Supervisors meeting. His next was attending a luncheon in his honor. Next, he said he walked into his new office at the Harrison County Adult Detention Center and found only a chair and a phone. His desk is sitting in a box, waiting to be assembled.

Peterson garnered rounds of applause with congratulatory shouts at Lyman Community Center, where District Attorney Joel Smith welcomed employees and guests including numerous public officials.

'Everything by the book'

"I'm not going to ask you to do anything that I wouldn't do myself," Peterson told his employees. "I'm not going to ask you to do anything that is against the law. What I want y'all to understand is we're going to do everything by the book. Everything's going to be done the right way."

"We have a lot of hurdles to get over. But we as a group, a consolidated group, can change it together.

Changes are coming. Positive changes are coming, but I also need you to understand your voice can be heard.

"I plan in the next four years to be positive. I don't want any negativity."

His parting words were, "Everybody get back to work."

Peterson's plans

Peterson told the Sun Herald his plans for the next few days include reiterating policies with staff and going over one policy change.

"I want to make sure the officers know their chain of command, what it is and who's in it," he said.

His long-range plan?

"I want the sheriff' office to be the highest paid sheriff's office in the state," Peterson said. "I want our retention rate to be at an all-time rate where we lose nobody. I want people to actually want to work for the sheriff's office."

In November, after spending a month with his transition team, Peterson announced his top priorities include serving the public, providing equal pay for equal work, building partnerships with other law enforcement agencies, increasing narcotics enforcement and developing a two-year plan for improvements at the county jail.

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