City releases interim grand jury report sent to judge, Chief responds

Published 8:44 pm Tuesday, July 18, 2023

BROOKHAVEN — Mayor Joe Cox handed over a single piece of paper after detailing the January term of the Grand Jury interim report after a regularly scheduled Board of Alderman meeting Tuesday evening. Cox said they received the letter just moments before entering the meeting. 

Cox brought in Brookhaven Police Chief Kenneth Collins and Assistant Chief Clint Earls to give them the letter during executive session Tuesday evening. 

The letter dated on July 7, 2023 details they have heard the sworn testimony of 27 witnesses and returned 28 true bills of indictment. They have continued 15 cases for further investigation and moved to withdraw one case from the grand jury docket. Two cases were remanded to the Brookhaven Municipal Court and the grand jury refused to indict 18 people. It is addressed to Circuit Judge Michael M. Taylor and was obtained Tuesday through the Circuit Clerk’s office. 

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The third paragraph of the report speaks directly to the Brookhaven Police Department. 

“We the grand jury, after hearing criminal cases presented by Brookhaven Police Department and speaking with the Chief of Brookhaven find Brookhaven poorly investigate their cases, there exist a lack of accountability within the department, department employees gave conflicting statements to the grand jury of facts, the department does not complete investigations in a timely manner, there exist a lack of professionalism within the department, the department has a habit of witness blaming, the department is complacent, investigations are not completed after the original investigator leaves the department, there exist a lack of training and/or continuing education, the department is arresting individuals without sufficient probable cause and the department does not utilize technology to their advantage,” the letter states. 

Cox responded to the letter at the conclusion of the Board of Aldermen meeting. 

“Anytime the city is posed with a report such as this we take it seriously,” Cox said. “I and the board will discuss with the proper parties and other independent sources any plans the city may take in the future.” 

Collins responded to the letter by saying he is doing the best with what he has. He had three hires on the agenda Tuesday night.

“We do what we can with what we have. It is easy for people to sit back and judge you. It is hard when you are short handed. I do everything I can,” Collins said. “It is easy for people on a grand jury who don’t know what work goes in and the people who are unwilling to testify to say this. They don’t understand what you have to go through. These witnesses are being threatened and bullied. They sit there and judge. We do this all day every day. I am doing the best I can. I will continue to do the best I can and I will continue to serve my term out.”

Aldermen voted in the meeting to approve a part-time non-certified officer to a full-time certified position. In executive session, they opted to take no action on approving a transfer of a police sergeant to court bailiff nor the hire of an 11-year law enforcement officer to a sergeant detective position.