Adams County studies consolidating sheriff, police operations

Published 12:01 am Sunday, November 18, 2018

NATCHEZ — Adams County is studying the possibility of consolidating the Adams County Sheriff’s Office and the Natchez Police Department.

The Adams County Board of Supervisors unanimously agreed Friday to conduct research on such a possibility during a special-called meeting Friday after District 2 Supervisor David Carter made a motion to research how the two agencies could be merged.

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The special meeting was called because several officials would be traveling Monday when the regularly scheduled meeting would have been held.

In making the motion to conduct the study, Carter said the Natchez Police Department is struggling to deal with recent violent incidents, including multiple shootings and possible gang-related activity.

“The city isn’t getting the service they need, because they’re undermanned, understaffed and under-budgeted,” Carter said. “Countywide, law enforcement is suffering because we’re trying to expend resources dedicated to the county to meet the city and county needs.”

Adams County Sheriff Travis Patten sat in on Friday’s meeting when the motion to allow Adams County Attorney Scott Slover to take full authority on the consolidation research passed at Carter’s recommendation.

“We have people fully assigned to the city now just to help out,” Patten said. “The city didn’t ask us to do that, but it is a need … It is a strain on us, but the supervisors have been great at supporting us and getting us what we need. However, at the end of the day, it still costs money to do that.”

Carter said consolidation might be the only option that would prevent the financial strain on both agencies.

“It’s clear that the city is having struggles with law enforcement,” Carter said. “It’s clear that we’re having issues in the city that the city does not have the manpower or the budget to handle. It is also clear that the sheriff’s office … is having to split its staff to handle the city and the county, which we (the Board of Supervisors) have not objected to whatsoever. … We either have to increase that budget and manpower or find a way to consolidate and merge them together.”

Patten said he is willing to move forward with whatever structure upon which the citizens of Natchez and Adams County agree.

“The talk of consolidation has come up in several different venues by several different officials,” Patten said. “This isn’t the first time that I’ve heard about it. … Whatever the will of the people is, that’s what we’ll do.”

In other matters during Friday’s special-called meeting of the board of supervisors:

* Supervisors agreed to cover the cost of burial arrangements for 54-year-old Mitchell Brooks — a homeless man known by locals as “The Guitar Man” who was shot in the back on Gaile Avenue last. No motive or suspects have emerged in the investigation.

Patten said investigators determined Brooks had been living in a wooded area near Walmart and had no funds or homestead at the time of his death.

Slover said that under state law it is the county’s responsibility to cover burial arrangements for indigent people.

“There were a lot of people who chipped in money to pay for funeral expenses, but there is an invoice of $525 still remaining,” Slover said. “Under Mississippi statutes, we’re required to provide a reasonable burial for indigents.”