Brown wants Metro officer on city beatPublished 12:14am Thursday, September 6, 2012
NATCHEZ — A desire to control expenses, better allocate resources and get a bigger slice of the seized drug money pie are factors Natchez Mayor Butch Brown gave for the city’s plan to withdraw one of its officers from the Metro Narcotics task force.
Brown informed the Adams County Board of Supervisors of the city’s plans to only provide one officer for Metro Narcotics at a joint meeting of the supervisors and Natchez Board of Aldermen Tuesday. Supervisors President Darryl Grennell and Adams County Sheriff Chuck Mayfield said Wednesday the previous day’s meeting was the first time they had heard about the city’s plan.
The city police force will be losing an officer to retirement, Brown said, and one of the Metro officers will be reassigned to wherever he is needed in the police department.
“The police chief has more need for his officer to be on board with him, and to that extent we can better use the talents we have working for the NPD than for Metro, who will still have a strong cadre of officers for the cases they are working on,” Brown said.
The original interlocal agreement that formed Metro Narcotics called for the city to supply two officers and the county through the sheriff’s department to supply one. The supervisors voted to renew the interlocal agreement Tuesday with the knowledge that the city had plans amend it.
Brown said the city’s amendments would include a reduction in the number of officers and a stipulation that the city receive a portion of seized funds.
Sheriff Chuck Mayfield said the sheriff’s office currently has four officers assigned to Metro Narcotics in addition to Commander David Lindsey. The sheriff’s office has no plan to supply another deputy to Metro Narcotics if the city pulls its officer.
“I can’t afford to do that, but we will still be working just as hard all over the city and the county,” Mayfield said. “I just don’t have anybody else right now to take that place or fill that gap.”
The sheriff said that in the last 18 months Metro Narcotics had made 372 cases, 300 of which were inside the city limits.
But Brown said the city has been picking up more and more drug cases as well.
“The information has been coming in that our (non-Metro) officers are doing drug interdictions on a weekly basis,” Brown said.
“We’ve been getting some complaints that Metro is not being as visible as it should be.”
Also at issue is $80,000 in suspected drug money that was seized during a traffic stop earlier this year. A Natchez Police officer initiated the stop, but the funds were seized by Metro because of the suspected drug connection.
Brown said the Natchez Police requested that part of those seized funds be used to buy a drug dog to be assigned to the police department, but the funds are currently being held by the district attorney’s office until they are forfeited. When the money is forfeited, it will be allocated to Metro Narcotics.
“The thing that is hard for us to understand is that we pay for two of the officers on Metro,” Brown said.
“We want a piece of the action if we are paying a piece of the program.”
The county’s drug dog, which is assigned to Metro officer Summer Moffett, is available to the city if they need it, Mayfield said.
“(The dog) is Metro’s, which means it belongs just as much to work in the city as it does in the county,” he said.
Metro has a total of $173,000 in seized funds waiting for forfeiture. Mayfield said that at the time the drug enforcement cooperative was formed, it was created in part to keep seized money in the community rather than having it remanded to the state, which happened in communities that did not have a cooperative in place.
“When Metro was created, it was agreed that the unit would be self-sufficient,” Mayfield said. “We supply the officers, but otherwise it is funded by seized money. The money is used to purchase information, evidence or equipment and training. We don’t have to go to the taxpayers and ask them for all this money.”
Brown said one difference between then and now is that the law has changed, and if the Natchez Police make a drug bust and call in the Mississippi Bureau of Narcotics, the MBN will keep 20 percent of seized funds and the rest is given to the police department.
“This is just another piece of the money falling through the cracks, and the city is picking up the bill on it,” Brown said.
The sheriff said he harbors no hard feelings toward the city for the decision.
“We are just going to keep rocking and doing our job as far as we are concerned,” Mayfield said. “I am still committed to drug enforcement, I think that is probably the most proactive thing we can do. I think the harder you hit that, the more you attack all crime.”