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Natchez Police Chief Walter Armstrong to retire in early 2021

NATCHEZ — Natchez Police Chief Walter Armstrong said he plans to retire by the first of next year after approximately 37 years in law enforcement.

Armstrong said he made the decision to retire before the end of 2019 and had told former Natchez Mayor Darryl Grennell of his intent to retire toward the end of 2020, even before Grennell had decided not to seek another term as mayor.

“It is going to be between now and the end of the year,” Armstrong said of his retirement date. “It may be into January.”

Armstrong said he has had several meetings with Natchez Mayor Dan Gibson to discuss hiring his replacement and that he offered to work with Gibson and the new chief on the transition.

Gibson made the announcement of Armstrong’s impending retirement during a Wednesday evening Facebook live video post.

“We are so proud of Chief Armstrong and over the last three years he has done a stellar job of coming in to Natchez and making various improvements in our department and making a genuine rapport with the citizens of Natchez,” Gibson said. “When I got elected mayor Chief Armstrong privately informed me that he was planning to retire soon and I pleaded with him to stick around to please allow me to get my feet wet and get them on the ground and he agreed to.”

Armstrong has served as the Natchez police chief since August 2017 after an eight-year stint as Vicksburg Police Chief, which was after he had retired from a 25-year career in the Mississippi Highway Patrol.

“We have accomplished a lot since we have been here,” Armstrong said of his tenure as Natchez police chief. “We have been able to get the starting wage up from a ridiculous $12.19 an hour to $15.50. We now start our officers out with $15 and when they become certified, finish the academy, we raise them another 50 cents to $15.50.”

Other accomplishments during Armstrong’s tenure include acquiring body cameras for Natchez police officers, obtaining fire arms for the officers through a federal program at no cost to the city, getting updated vehicles for officers with a policy of allowing officers to take their vehicles home at night and having crime cameras placed in strategic points throughout the city through Project NOLA.

“We saw a huge benefit from those cameras for solving and preventing crime,” Armstrong said. “We have seen a huge reduction in those areas mainly in the Holiday Apartments. A huge reduction there.”

Armstrong said he also was proud to have headed up updating the police department’s radio system.

“We put brand new radios and walkie-talkies in all of our police vehicles,” Armstrong said. “It was about a $250,000 project to replace a system that was outdated and we also put GPS on our patrol cars.”

Now five weeks into Gibson’s stint as mayor was the time to make the announcement, Gibson said, adding the hiring process will formally begin at the board’s next meeting.

“We are letting everyone know that in September at our first board meeting we will be starting the process for a search for a new chief to take his place and the reason we are doing this now is to allow ourselves a good three months to do this process, to do it properly and get good candidates and to vet them and to have Chief Armstrong’s input during this process and also to have his assistance during the transition,” Gibson said. “I think it will be very good for Natchez for our current chief to be involved in the process and to ensure the transition at the end of the year will be a smooth one.”

Gibson said the process will begin with advertising for the position and the board’s police committee, made up of Ward 3 Alderwoman and committee chairwoman Sarah Carter Smith, Ward 4 Alderwoman Felicia Irving and Ward 5 Alderman Benjamin Davis, will assist in the search for the next chief.

“We are also going to be working with our current chief on review of protocols on recruitment and retention which are challenges we face in our community,” Gibson said, adding they also will begin the process of working on cold cases in the city.

Armstrong, 59, said he plans to continue to work in some law enforcement capacity after his retirement but does not yet have definite plans.

“There comes a time when we have to make a decision on when to end a career,” Armstrong said. “It is a good time to call it quits and move on to something else.”