Court affirms 2014 suspension and demotion of Natchez police officer

Published 12:01 am Friday, May 11, 2018


NATCHEZ — The suspension and demotion of a Natchez police officer in 2014 was rightfully done, a Mississippi appellate court affirmed Tuesday.

The Mississippi Court of Appeals ruled Tuesday that the Natchez Civil Service Commission acted properly when it investigated the case of Vincent Bates, a Natchez Police officer.

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Court documents say Bates placed a tracking device on the patrol car of another police officer, Elvis Prater, on June 19, 2014.

Prater initially filed a report and Bates was charged with trespassing and disturbing the peace, though those charges were later dismissed.

The Natchez Police Department conducted an internal investigation into the incident and city aldermen recommended firing Bates, saying that the officer’s conduct was “unbecoming” for an officer and that he had misused a city vehicle, court documents say.

Bates appealed that decision, however, with the Natchez Civil Service Commission, which determined after an investigation that Bates should not have been fired.

The Civil Service Commission modified the city’s order, and instead suspended Bates for four months without pay and demoted him to patrolman.

Bates then appealed the Civil Service Commission’s decision with the Adams County Circuit Court.

After the county circuit court affirmed the commission’s decision, Bates appealed to the state appellate court.

On Tuesday, the Mississippi Court of Appeals reaffirmed the decision to suspend and demote Bates.

In their decision, appellate court judges wrote that the Civil Service Commission conducted a thorough investigation into the case, calling eight witnesses and showing 18 exhibits during the course of the hearing.

Bates said his placing of the tracker on the car was a prank and did not violate department policy, the court’s decision said, though many of his coworkers called Bates “vindictive.”

In his testimony, Prater said he felt Bates had placed the tracker on his car in retaliation for Prater implying that Bates was sleeping during his shift.

The judges said the Civil Service Commission had been correct in reversing Bates’ termination and instating the four-month suspension and demotion, and that Bates’ claim that his due-process rights had been violated was “without merit.”