‘To single out the police department was wrong’ — Chief responds to Board hiring oversight decision

Published 4:00 pm Thursday, February 24, 2022

The chief of police has responded to a recent Board of Aldermen decision to require board approval of all new hires for the police department.

The board voted in a special-called meeting Friday, Feb. 18, to take certain steps prior to approving new hires for the city. The vote was specifically for the Brookhaven Police Department, but will soon be applied by the Board of Aldermen to all departments. The specified steps are already taken by BPD Chief Kenneth Collins and other BPD leadership before recommendations are made to the City Board.

“We are in the process of looking at all departments and an overall policy manual for the city that would include this process,” Mayor Joe Cox said Wednesday. “The Chief already does this, but since the board approves hirings, it is just the next step.”

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The board must now have an opportunity to review such things as applications, employment histories, driving records and criminal histories prior to taking a vote on whether to hire a new employee.

Other departments include the fire department, public works, solid waste, water and recreation/parks.

“I was elected by whites and blacks overwhelmingly to be chief of police of Brookhaven,” Collins said Wednesday. “Every hire that I have made, a background check has been done and an application has to be filled out. The information off the NCIC [National Crime Information Center] is privileged information meant for use only by law enforcement. So it makes me feel like I’m made to look incompetent and that I lie.”

“At this time, with what we’re all going through in this city, to single out the police department was wrong,” Collins said. “It should have been stated (at that meeting) that it was for all departments, not a special meeting called just for the police department.”

“Just because people don’t agree with who is hired, that doesn’t give anybody the right to question my integrity. If they want to run the city, be the chief, and think they can do it better than me, I’ll hand them the keys,” he said.

“We can never politicize our police department. In this day and time, everyone is trying to tear every law enforcement agency down. And these same people could not handle one ‘shots fired’ call. We’ve had several officers in our area to give their lives paying the ultimate price in protecting and serving the county and the city and the citizens. When you’re attacked from the outside and also on the inside, from those who are seeking power, it’s really hard,” Collins said. “But Wednesday I was troubled and I went by the post office on Cherokee Street. A beautiful black lady and an awesome white man gave me some Scripture — In the midst of the storm, be still and let God fight your battle. And that touched my heart because I didn’t realize that sometimes God sends angels to you in different forms, shapes and colors, to direct your paths and to comfort you in your times of need. And I want to thank those two postal workers for lifting me up.”

Collins continued, commenting on the danger and difficulty of serving as law enforcement, as well as his vision for making the city safer.

“I was elected to do a job. I’m doing the best I can. I have a lot of young officers and I have to be a father, a mentor, and a disciplinarian, at times. I’ve got a word of Scripture for those who are attacking us — When the crowd gathered to stone the young lady, Jesus told them, ‘Let the one without sin cast the first stone.’ When people stay in glass houses, they should not throw stones. It’s not right.

“And I want them to know that I believe in this town. I believe in the police department. You see, because I was raised into a man by everyone in this town — people like Chief Henderson, Chief Bell, Doc Harrison, Mr. Roach, Mr. JD Foster, Mr. Garland Brown, Dr. A. L. Lott, Mr. Jerry Robinson, Mr. Don Coleman, Mr. Jesse Buie, so on and so forth.

“I had a chance to live and to be taught and be raised by all of these great people in our town. And they taught me that we are God-made and heaven-sent. As long as we have faith in God, we can never be broken and we will never be bent. Be still during this storm, Brookhaven, and watch God fight this battle for us.

“(Wednesday) we had to deal with a group of kids, approximately 15 kids. When the call came in, it came in as kids wearing hoodies, displaying guns walking down North Jackson. So when we pulled up; we saw the group of kids walking on Powell Street. One broke out running. He was placed on the ground by one of my officers. A weapon was found hidden in his jacket. That group of kids turned around and started attacking me and my officers verbally, (after) cutting their phone cameras on. They cursed us, they belittled us, and we were told that they ran Rogers Circle.

“People came out of their homes and watched. I had one brave black lady walk from her house a block away and she told them, ‘Y’all should be ashamed of what y’all are doing.’ I had to restrain myself and my officers because I knew that if we had grabbed one and arrested them and possibly hurt one, I knew what was going to happen.

“I want Mr. Travion Thomas (one of the older ones) to know that the next time we’re going to turn our body cameras on and we’re not going to chase them and run them down. We’re going to go back and fill out our affidavits and get a warrant signed by the judge. I want the people of Rogers Circle to call the renters of these homes to these individuals who have unleashed these kids upon the city. They cannot control their kids and what’s going on. Because either you can live with us in peace or you can find someplace else to say. Because the guardians and the parents are responsible for raising their kids.

“It is not the police’s responsibility to raise peoples’ kids. The shooting that’s being going on the last several weeks on Rogers Circle, these kids are involved, shooting back and forth at each other. A 6-year-old child was killed in McComb the other day. If we do not take a stand together as a city, and we let these groups of kids take over our town it’s just a matter of time before one of these bullies hits a child. We’ve already had that to happen. I’m going to seek filing charges on these parents and guardians for allowing their kids to be delinquent and disorderly. We’re going to come after them, file charges on them and do the legal, necessary steps we need to do to get this problem under control.

“I have a vision for Brookhaven. Ever since I’ve been elected, I have been trying to get Brookhaven digital. I want the cameras set up in every city-owned location. I want the cameras set up all over the city and I want it done in stages, because when you have people that are unwilling to testify but yet trying to take the law into their own hands, it will be a never-ending cycle and I think we owe it to our kids and their kids to get it right for future generations.

“I have a meeting set up Friday morning with Fusion to try to get these boxes to first utilize all existing cameras in the city. These boxes are artificial intelligence. If people decide to sign on to whatever particular camera to give us access to that camera, we can tell the computer we are looking for a red car and the system will go back and pick out all red cars within that time frame. If we’re looking for a person with a backpack, it will do that too. Then I want to add additional cameras in every budget.

“That is the way in the future to help protect our town. Just like they use our body cameras against us, I want to use these cameras against the criminals. Because if the cameras catch you, you’re not relying on the people who won’t come forward to testify yet blame the police.

“I would like to thank Matt Shell for helping to get the City Park fitted with cameras and trying to get all these other baseball fields and basketball courts with cameras, because he, too, shares my vision.

“Stand strong, Brookhaven, because we have righteousness on our side. Stand strong and be safe.”