Mississippi police officer fired from force while serving in Iraq

Mantachie police chief, and other officers, not rehired

At the time of Tuesday’s decision, the Mantachie Police Department was operating with two full-time officers, Jones and Danny Crumb, and one part-time reserve officer, Nelson McMillen. Wilton Cooper, another full-time officer and drug dog handler, is currently overseas serving in Iraq.

Although the board voted against rehiring any of the city’s officers, Mayor Jeff Butler said its members plan to rehire Cooper at their next meeting.

According to Butler, the board was answering the requests of voters when its members decided against rehiring Jones as chief of police.

“The board members indicated the constituents who elected them wanted a change in the police department; they didn’t like the way things were being run and wanted a change,” he said.

The mayor said the town looks to hire new police officers in a short amount of time, hoping to appoint a new police chief as early as the August 4 meeting.

Itawamba Journal

Dear Editor:

Where is our patriotism? My stepson, Wilton Cooper, who serves with the 155th, is on his second tour of duty in Iraq. He left behind his sweet wife and three small children while he went to serve his country. Then while waiting to fly into Iraq, sleeping on a runway in 120-degree heat and with a water bottle for his pillow, the town of Mantachie’s new board members fired him from his job as a police officer. I don’t think he needed that news with all his other worries. How hard can our hearts get? Do we not feel for our military? Can we not stand by them in patriotism and prayer while they protect us?

Buddy Rushing

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Federal statute protects employees

The Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act of 1994 (USERRA) is a federal statute that protects employees who take temporary leaves of absence for active or reserve duty in the uniformed services. The statute applies to every employer in the United States, regardless of size, that has employees who need a leave of absence for military duty.

Under USERRA, employees who are deployed with the Guard or Reserves are guaranteed job protection with a particular employer for a cumulative total of at least five years, depending on their orders, according to the Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve (ESGR), a Defense Department agency.

A returning employee must be able to return to a job with the same status and seniority that he or she would have had if continuously employed. The returning veteran is also entitled to immediate reinstatement of his or her health plan coverage, among other benefits.

All involuntary service, and some voluntary service, is exempt from the five-year limit. The five-year total does not include service such as annual training; involuntary recall to or retention on active duty; or voluntary or involuntary active duty in support of a war, national emergency, or certain operational missions.

USERRA does not require employers to pay reservists during their deployments, but many employers do so anyway, as well as maintain health insurance coverage for reservists and their families.