Candidate lays out goals at Lions Club

Published 9:43 pm Wednesday, March 6, 2013

A higher tech police force and more officers on the streets – those were among the goals current Assistant Police Chief Bobby Bell laid out Tuesday in discussing his candidacy for police chief.

Bell was the guest speaker at the Lions Club noon meeting and introduced himself and his ideas to the club members.

“I’ve worked my way up the ranks, from patrolman to assistant chief,” said Bell, briefly outlining the arc of his 31-year career in the Brookhaven Police Department.

Running as a Democrat, Bell hopes to replace the retiring incumbent Chief Pap Henderson.

His opponents in the race include Democrat Larry Warren, a former BPD officer, and Republican Ted Goleman, a former Mississippi Highway Patrol trooper.

Discussing the high turnover rates among Brookhaven’s officers, Bell said he’d like to instill a stronger sense of public service and community devotion in the force, the sense of which he said used to be much stronger.

“I would like to turn it back around and put the focus back on Brookhaven,” Bell said.

He hopes his own example speaks for itself.

“I could retire today, but I love what I’m doing,” said Bell, 55.

Speaking of more specific goals, the assistant police chief would like to build up the force’s number and increase patrols.

“We’re going to have to get more manpower,” Bell said.

Bell explained that right now the department averages about 29 officers at one time, not enough in Bell’s opinion.

He said he’d like to aim for a high of 42 officers, which he believes would allow the department to average about 35.

The department’s current officer totals carry some real limitations, said the assistant chief.

“The people in the annexed areas are still not being patrolled properly,” he said. “We may go out and patrol a block but then come back.”

He also wants the officers to receive more specialized training.

“They’re getting all their training on the streets,” Bell said.

Looking toward new technology, Bell wants dashboard cameras in the patrol cars.

Tuesday’s meeting included a brief question and answer session. One questioner asked about the prevalence of drugs in Brookhaven.

The assistant chief acknowledged the problem but said it may not be as prevalent as some believe. He pointed out that prescription drug abuse is now far more common than the use of street drugs.

Another question probed Bell about his thoughts on a referendum scheduled for June by which Brookhaven voters could legalize liquor sales.

Bell provided some guarded remarks but stopped short of either supporting or coming out against the referendum.

“I can’t speak to the economics of it,” Bell said. He added, “I think the harder it is to get a substance, the easier it is to stay off it.”

Bell was a guest at the Lions Club at the invitation of Dave Pace, who described Bell as “hopefully the next chief of police.”

Another candidate was present Tuesday at Pace’s invitation, Martha Arrington. She’s seeking the seat of Ward Five alderman.

“I really want to serve Brookhaven,” Arrington said in the few brief remarks she was able to make in the time remaining at the meeting.

Arrington is running as a Republican and faces fellow Republican challenger Fletcher Grice.

Ward Five’s incumbent alderman D.W. Maxwell hasn’t yet qualified for any city office.

Friday is the deadline for candidates to qualify for city office.