How Brookhaven’s aldermen voted on chief appointment, and why

Published 1:55 pm Sunday, April 9, 2023

This week, Brookhaven’s Board of Aldermen voted to change the process of selecting a chief of police from election to selection. Instead of potential candidates running to be elected in 2025, the Board will appoint (hire) someone to the position.

Alderman-at-large Don Underwood, Ward 4 Alderman Jeff Henning and Ward 6 Alderman Andre Spiller voted to make the change.

Ward 5 Alderman Fletcher Grice voted against the motion presented by Underwood.

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The remaining aldermen — Ward 1’s James Magee Jr., Ward 2’s Shannon Moore and Ward 3’s Charles Caston Sr. — abstained from the vote. Abstaining does not count as a vote for or against, but allows the matter to be decided by the other board members voting.

Each alderman was asked why they chose to vote as they did, or why they abstained.

Underwood said appointment keeps the position from being filled by someone who may be popular with the voters but not fully qualified for the leadership role. For more on his comments, read [LINK].

“This will give us the opportunity to interview potential candidates currently in the Brookhaven Police Department and also will open the process to qualified police officers from across Mississippi and even across the country,” Henning said. “The chief of police should not be a popularity contest. It should be the most qualified person for the job.”

Magee said he was careful to not vote Tuesday on the issue.

“I was elected to be transparent, address issues and concerns, and communicate candidly with constituents in the ward,” he said. “There wasn’t enough time allocated to poll how a majority of the constituents thought or held opinions about this decision in Ward 1 to provide an up or down vote.”

Ward 2 Alderman Moore also did not cast a vote on the issue.

“I chose to abstain because my heart wasn’t solely on taking the vote from the people. I feel the appointment should have been discussed at a later time,” Moore said. “Since it was passed, I think a committee should be formed from each Ward to help with choosing the next Chief of Police. I think this decision should not be solely on the Board of Aldermen.”

Responses from other aldermen were not received prior to press time.