Leachville Council approves new chief of police

Tuesday, November 3, 2015
Chris Ellis was hired as the new Chief of Police for Leachville at the October meeting.

Leachville Council approved the hiring of a new chief of police at the Monday, Oct. 26, meeting. They also hired a part-time officer and heard a statement from former Chief of Police Steve Lancaster.

Following an executive session, Mayor Ralph Wells recommended hiring Chris Ellis as Chief of Police at a starting salary of $36,000.

The council voted unanimously in favor of the mayor's recommendation.

All council members, Ethel Hetler, Karen Wallace, Michael Webster, Lisa Baldridge, Teresa Johnson and Tommy Stone, were present.

The council then approved the hiring of Mike Shivley as police officer for up to 39 hours a week at $10 an hour.

Mayor Wells said they still have Sgt. Mitchell Lasater and Alan Lasater with the LPD. Alan will be going to the academy in January. He is also the K9 handler.

Chuck Brown resigned his position with the Leachville Police Department and has joined Mississippi County Sheriff's Department.

Mayor Wells terminated Chief of Police Steve Lancaster on Friday, Oct. 2.

During the citizen's comments time, former Police Chief Lancaster made a statement to the council and the citizens of Leachville.

"First thing I would like to do is to thank the council for all of the support they have given the Leachville Police Department this year as well as the last several years. It has been an honor to serve the citizens of Leachville. I would like to take this moment to tell the council that policing today is not anything like it was when I started in 1992. Today, officers are working in a time where mandated and annual remedial training is not an elective but is an essential to not only keep their survival skills up but also to protect them and the city they serve from civil liability while maintaining and improving professionalism. I have been told by our mayor that training was not needed here in Leachville because we are 'a small town.' I have news for you, lawyers and criminals don't care what the population size of our town is or the size department we work for, the consequences are the same whether you work for Leachville or Memphis PD.

"I have been told repeatedly by the Mayor that Leachville can't afford to allow our officers to train. Folks, we can't afford for them NOT to train and as a citizen of Leachville I expect to have the best trained officers we can have serving me and my family and the entire community.

"This also leads me to the reason I was told I was no longer an employee of this Police Department and that is that I made a request for an upgrade to the communications system for the police department so that we can continue to improve the safety of our officers while they are in the field. We should not and can not continue with the mentality that nothing happens in Leachville. Nothing ever happens in Manila but in July an officer was attacked with a knife which led to the death of the attacker. Just this week in England, Ark., where nothing ever happens, an officer is fighting for his life after being shot in the chest while on a traffic stop. I encourage you to continue to work on this issue because it will not change without your will to fix it. Our workman comp claims have seen an increase over the last few years and an officer working on his own has got to be able to yell for help and they should have the comfort and peace of mind knowing that a dispatcher on the other end can hear their screams for help so that they can get them the assistance they need. I would like to encourage each of you to do an occasional ride along with each of your officers.

"In closing I would like to ask each of you to take time to look through and study your Municipal League Handbook. As I was listening to my preacher yesterday tell us about living by the word and we should stop putting in more and stop leaving out certain things in the bible to suit us. I had the same thought about the municipal handbook. The rules are in there, read them. Only the council can by general ordinance mandate how many paid officers the police department can have as well as the rules concerning illegal council meetings of two or more members discussing city business. Again, thank you for your time."

Councilwoman Johnson said everything the council does is done in the best interest of Leachville.

"I have faith in our police department and fire department, and my fellow council members. I want Leachville to be a place where my grandchildren can grow up. I want to thank you all."

Councilman Webster expressed his appreciation for the work the police department and fire department do.

"I know it is not a normal 9-5 job and we all know it," Webster said. "We want what is best four our officers. We purchased the good vests for them. We want our officers to wear them and be safe."

He went on to tell the officers if there is anything they need, equipment or training, they should let the council know.

Mayor Wells said he realizes that being a police officer is dangerous in any town.

"A town our size has just so much to budget," Mayor Wells said. "We don't have unlimited funds. If we had unlimited funds I would like an Army of officers in here. We can't afford that. We do the best we can to keep the best officers we can. Things happen, (we) can't work together and sometimes we have to part ways. I am proud of what the officers did here but we had a problem. Steve and I had a disagreement. Chuck (Brown) left to take another job. We are trying to replace them. That is all I have to say tonight."

Brown commented he left to take a position with the Sheriff's Department.

"You (Mayor Wells) keep saying they couldn't get along," Brown said. "I don't know about you and Steve, but you and I did not have problems. I was offered the Chief of Police position in Leachville but I turned it down because I took a job with the county."

In other business:

*Ruth Ann Keith, clerk/treasurer, gave the financial report for each department including the grabage truck collections. She went on to say a special account has been opened for grant funding for a tornado/siren grant. The city will pay for the project and then be reimbursed. One third of the total $24,000 project will come from the USDA, and an estimted $10,000 from GIF Funds. The city will only have to pay $4,687 of the total project. The council approved unanimously on opening the account.

She suggested the site for the substation might be a good place for the siren to be placed. She also said the municipal league insurance will not increase next year.

*Officer Alan Lasater, K9 handler, asked the council to pay the balance of $2,125 on the drug dog. The council voted unanimously to do so. He also gave a report on the cost of three mobile radio units for the council to review.

*Robert Ballard, utility supervisor, presented two quotes for repairing fencing at the park. The council voted to have Chris Morgan do the work. He also informed the council a pump had gone down and he had to have it replaced. He asked the council to allow him to have the old one, and another one that will have to be replaced, rebuilt at a cost of approximately $1,200 each. He said that would give the city backup. The rebuilt ones will cost half the price of a new one. The council approved the request. Ballard also said a hydrant is leaking and will have to repaired at an estimated cost of $795.

*Fire Chief Richie Pace reported the rescue truck has a short and the headlights will not work. It must be repaired. He said the pump trucks will have to be tested at a cost of $350 per truck. He went on to say this will help lower the ISO rates. Pace also said the fire department would like to pay the closing costs of the property being purchased by Leachville Industrial Development Commission for a future substation.

*Ms. Keith asked the department heads to let the office know of any upcoming budgeting needs as work will begin on the 2016 budget. It has to be presented to the council by Dec. 1.

*The council set 5 p.m. Nov. 9 to continue working on the employee handbook.

*The council voted to reaffirm the appointment of Donna Barnes for a five year term on the Leachville Housing Board.

*EOC Board member Marilyn Looney reported the EOC House she mentioned at last month's meeting had been sold to a young couple. She said she also has a three piece living room table set for sale for $100.

*The annual Christmas parade will be held Saturday, Nov. 28. Line up will begin at 5 p.m. With judging at 6 p.m. The parade will begin at 6:30 p.m. Prizes for the floats will be $150 for first place; $100 for second place; and $50 for third place.

*The next regular city council meeting will be held at 7 p.m. Nov. 16.

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