The Bay St. Louis City Council met Tuesday with Hancock County Sheriff Ricky Adam in a workshop to discuss the possible consolidation of the Bay St. Louis Police Department and the Hancock County Sheriff’s Office.
Several officers from the Bay department and sheriff’s office also attended the workshop.
Council President Lonnie Falgout said the discussion was not about “one particular place or department, it’s just research so we can make decisions as we may need to make them or leave them like they are or improve them, whatever we may be able to do.”
Falgout said Councilman Joey Boudin had asked him to seek information from Adam about the sheriff’s agreement with Diamondhead.
“We supply all the manpower, they provide all equipment, vehicles, weapons,” Adam said. “Everything but personnel. We bill them monthly for the personnel. According to their mayor, we save them around $500,000 a year.”
Adam said Diamondhead pays for patrol officers, a narcotics “guy” and one investigator, but it also “wins” the city the other seven sheriff’s investigators.
“In Bay St. Louis here, I’ve given you all some input on how we would do things,” Adam said. “First of all, I’m here because you asked me to be here — that’s the only reason I’m here. If this does come to pass, that’s totally up to you, the council members and citizens of Bay St. Louis. I don’t get one extra penny, I just get a hell of a lot more headache.”
Diamondhead officers are also sworn county officers and come and go as they please in and out of Diamondhead, Adam said.
Councilman Mike Favre asked Adam about keeping the same number of officers.
“There’s a cutback on the number of officers,” Adam said. “We’re looking at 16 patrolmen, two investigators, one narcotics guy and a captain, to go along with the animal warden and HIDTA people. Our pay scale at the sheriff’s department is less than Bay St. Louis, always has been. If we do it, we have to maintain that same pay schedule. I can’t have one group of people working for me in Bay St. Louis making one salary and another group in the other part of the county making another.”
Adam said an agreement could be approved by the secretary of state or an inter-local agreement approved by the state attorney general. The officers would be county personnel on a contract basis. Adam said his agreement with Diamondhead is on a two-year basis.
Bay Mayor Les Fillingame asked Adam, “What would some of the advantages be?”
“The way I see it, if everybody knows what’s going on at what time, everybody can come and go as they please,” Adam said. “Everybody’s on the same page. It’s the same team of mules pulling in the same direction.”
Favre said about 39 people work for the Bay St. Louis Police Department.
Filingame asked Adam if he thought the department was overstaffed.
“I don’t know if you’re overstaffed or not, I don’t know how many people actually work per shift,” Adam said. “I know that we can do it with four per shift. We have to have other units on the south end as well.”
Bay St. Louis police Capt. Wes Mayley said the department has about 32 uniformed personnel and they work five per shift. Two of the four shifts are at five now, that’s patrol only. Two detectives are on call at night and work during the day, Mayley said.
Adam said the city could stay at five per shift and that Bay St. Louis officers and staff would be given the first chance to join the sheriff’s office.
The city could save about $565,000 for a four-officer shift, the sheriff estimated.
Councilman Doug Seal said the estimated savings would be about $359,975 for a five-officer shift.
Adam said one stumbling block would be a pay cut for the officers.
Fillingame told Adam he “truly appreciates all the help and assistance you’ve given our guys in the last month or so,” but he does not feel anything is “broken” in the police department.
“I think our police department runs very well and we don’t need to make any changes right now, other than finding a new police chief, and we need to hire the two detectives we have openings for in the budget,” the mayor said. “I think that we need to maintain the working relationship we have maintained over the past few weeks and go forward as two separate departments.”
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