Lowndes County Board of Supervisors makes decision on drug task force

LOWNDES COUNTY, Miss. (WCBI) – The Lowndes County Board of Supervisors is sending notice of intent to end the joint narcotics task force to the Columbus City Council.

Last week, Columbus Police Chief Joesph Daughtry announced he would be temporarily pulling his officers from the task force, effective immediately, leaving the unit’s fate in limbo.

While each party is able to end the agreement, there are certain rules they must follow to get out of the contract.

Monday, the Lowndes County Board of Supervisors President Trip Hairston said they came to an agreement on their plans moving forward.

“We decided to send a proper notice to the city that we plan within 90 days to get out of the drug task force,” said Hairston.

The inter-local agreement specifically states certain regulations to follow if one party decides to leave the force.

Hairston said that this was to ensure that situations like this wouldn’t leave a department without manpower.

“The reason is because of where we are. Personnel can not be moved in and out even on a temporary basis. If it was a short-term temporary basis it may be a different thing, but if you’re moving in personnel whether it’s the sheriff’s office or the city chief then we need to know,” said Hairston.

While the police chief was open to rejoining the task force after dealing with overtime and manpower issues, there was the possibility that different agents would be assigned to the force.

Sheriff Eddie Hawkins said this would have been challenging for both departments.

“If it’s not the same agents then we are looking at having to train those guys. Bring them up to speed. You know they have to develop informants and learn how to work the equipment to do surveillance. Learn how to do paperwork. You know it’s not as easy as it sounds by waving a wand and making somebody a narcotics agent,” said Hawkins.

Questions also came up about the county’s recent purchase of a drug-testing device for the Columbus crime lab, and if the disbanding of the task force would affect that.

“The county owns the machine. The county purchased the machine and is giving users of that machine to the crime lab which is a separate entity. When the crime lab uses the machine they’ve agreed not to charge us for the use and that would mean the city as well, ” said Hairston.

District 5 Supervisor Leroy Brooks addressed the tension between some city leaders.

“That’s our job to work for the citizens of this community and not for our personal egos. It’s important we are elected not to perpetuate out of an agenda but to work for the citizens of Columbus and Lowndes County and I’m always going to take the high road when it’s possible,” said Brooks.

Now that the agreement is in the process of ending, the sheriff is looking for ways to continue his department’s drug enforcement mission.

“I am going to ask the board of supervisors to replace those agents. To amend my budget so I can hire 4 agents to come in and staff the unit to where we have a full staff and continue to fight the fight,” said Hawkins.

In 90 days, the board of supervisors can rescind its vote to end the inter-local agreement and the task force could still continue.

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