Elected or appointed? City clarifies police chief question

Published 12:00 pm Thursday, February 8, 2024

NAACP Brookhaven president the Rev. Rico Cain asked the Board of Aldermen Tuesday to clarify for residents whether the police chief position is an appointed or elected office.

In April 2023, the Board voted 3-1 to make the office an appointed one rather than elected. Alderman-at-large Don Underwood said at the time that his research showed only nine of the 287 chiefs in the state were elected, and the rest appointed. All of these other than Brookhaven were located in the northeast portion of the state, making the Lincoln County city the sole geographical outlier, he said.

Underwood, Aldermen Andre’ Spiller (Ward 6) and Jeff Henning (Ward 4) voted in support of the move. Ward 5 Alderman Fletcher Grice voted no, and the remaining three board members abstained — James Magee Jr. (Ward 1), Shannon Moore (Ward 2), and the Rev. Charles Caston Sr. (Ward 3).

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In June 2023, Alderman Moore said he would like the board to consider reverting to an elected position for the chief, if the Attorney General’s Office agreed that the City had the power to do so. Attorney Bobby Moak said the board could do that with a simple majority, pending AG approval.

The board then voted 4-3 in favor of returning to an elected chief of police if the AG’s Office approved. Once again, Underwood, Spiller and Henning voted against an elected position, but Moore, Magee and Caston joined Grice in voted in favor of it.

An AG opinion was received in August saying the City could go ahead with the reversal.

At the most recent board meeting, Feb. 6, 2024, Cain said he was speaking on behalf of the people of Brookhaven.

“Since [the vote to return to elected], there’s pretty much been silence on this. The people are confused as to whether the chief of police is now an appointed or an elected position,” Cain said. “We would like for you to clarify.”

“The Board voted to go from elected to appointed. About two meetings later, the Board opted to go back to an elected position, pending a positive response from the Attorney General, and we did get that response,” said Mayor Joe Cox. “So at this point, it is an elected position.”

“Thank you,” Cain said.