The city of Moss Point is still searching for a police chief, though it’s not because officials haven’t been willing to invest in the city’s top cop job.
Just weeks ago, the city agreed to fork over $95,000 a year to Keith Davis if he agreed to return to head up the police department.
At first, it appeared Davis was in, but then he backed out.
That salary is the highest on record, but it comes at a time when the city is experiencing a record-breaking spike in violent crime rates, including homicides.
If Davis had taken the job, he would have been pulling in $25,000 more than previous Chief Calvin Hutchins earned when he left in February at an annual salary of $69,999.
Since before the offer to Davis fell through, Interim Chief Brandon Ashley has been heading up the department at an annual salary of $69,500.
He is now among 10 who are vying for the job, city officials confirmed Friday.
The search for a new police chief in the city is nothing new in Moss Point. Since 2004, the city has gone through four chiefs. City leaders voted to fire two of the former chiefs.
Alderman Wayne Lennup is among the elected officials who believe the city is going to have to show it is willing to truly invest in its police department in order for the crime rates to reduce.
“We can’t just say we are willing to devote significant more resources to the Police Department,” Lennup said. “We are going to have to actually demonstrate that we can and we will increase our Police Department budget significantly — by at least $1 million.”
Alderman Sherwood Bradford echoed the sentiment.
“With the high crime rate, you can forget economic development,” Bradford told the Sun Herald. “Folks are not going to bring their business here. We have got to get the police department corrected. That should be our top priority.”
Bradford said he wants the field of candidates to include those from a nationwide search.
The salary offered, Lennup said, needs to be such that it prompts top notch candidates to apply for the job.
The Sun Herald filed a public records request to take a look at the salaries for the past five police chiefs, and after being charged $96, we found out:
- Sheila Smallman - $55,702 (June 24, 2008 to March 2, 2011). City officials fired Smallman in 2011 after city leaders said they lost confidence in her abilities as police chief.
- Keith Davis - $60,000 to $69,999 (May 16, 2011 to June 27, 2014). Davis left because of a “deteriorating” relationship with former mayor Billy Broomfield. He is now head of enforcement at the Mississippi Department of Marine Resources.
- Arthur “Art” McClung - $72,827 (Jan. 6, 2015 to Sept. 13, 2016). McClung was fired after the Sun Herald revealed how he was stopped by Pascagoula police in 2016 for driving 109 mph after having “at least three vodkas.” The Sun Herald obtained dash-cam footage from two Pascagoula police patrol cars to expose the incident that had otherwise gone unreported.
- Calvin Hutchins - $69,999 (March 27, 2017 to Feb. 9, 2018). Hutchins, a veteran Pascagoula police officer, served as police chief until he left to serve as head of police force in the Pascagoula-Gautier School District.
- Salary offer Keith Davis - $95,000 (Offered in February 2018.) Davis accepted then backed out of the job. He decided to stay on as head of enforcement of the Mississippi Department of Marine Resources.