The city’s 500-officer police department will lose its chief, Robert Moore, at the end of June. The next mayor, who will take office on Independence Day, will appoint the new leader.
It’s a monumental task, fighting crime in a city with a murder rate last year that was more than five times the national average per capita, and managing one of the city’s largest – and highest profile – departments.
“The (new) chief must have the patience of Job, skin thickness of an elephant and a knowledge and desire to be a leader,” Ridgeland Police Chief Jimmy Houston said. “He’s got to have integrity that far exceeds anybody in the Bible.”
Jackson Mayor Harvey Johnson Jr. lost in the May 3 Democratic primary to Frank Melton. Melton and Rick Whitlow, a Republican, will square off in the June 7 general election. Both candidates said they’d form teams to seek the best police chief candidates.
Crime was the No. 1 issue in the mayoral campaign and the Kevlar vest for stopping it hangs on the chief’s shoulders. The top cop in the state capital has a political position in a metro area where few residents are shy about sharing their opinions. In the past 15 years, the department has had 10 chiefs.
During Moore’s tenure, more officers were added to the force, the department’s technology was upgraded and crime dropped. But Moore often was zinged for not winning public confidence.
“We really need change. The next chief really does need to be somebody within the department, somebody who knows the city, knows the streets and knows the crime,” Bush said. “Every city is rocked with this, but Jackson’s just too good a town to turn it into a crime area.”
JPD Cmdr. Lee Vance, an 18-year member of the force, has had his name bantered about law enforcement and political circles as a possible successor to Moore’s $113,000-a-year post.
“I have not been approached,” he said. “I appreciate anybody who feels that way about me, but at this point it would be disrespectful to the process.”