LUMBERTON, MS (WDAM) - Lumberton's Chief of Police, Elsie Cowart, explained that while Lumberton's budget issues are of top priority, and even though her job is in jeopardy, the citizens of the city are most important.
"It's kind of hard, the morale here is down but, you know I'm a positive person, and I try to keep my guys in that positive mind and to worry about it, I mean, I try not to worry about things you can't change," Chief Cowart said. "And they are good, when I say great guys, that will come in and take care of one another, you know but it's stuff like that that makes you angry that we have to endure this, and don't have job security."
With the city's police force cut in half, Lamar County Sheriff's Department is doing their part to help patrol the area, but the lack of police presence has already had an impact.
"Then that they have cut the department in half already, the crime rate has already gone up. And of course the county helps us when they can and they do," said Cowart. "They come for officers when they need back up. But they don't have officers to be here. Police presents keeps down crime, and it's a lack of so, you know, I'm sure it will get worse."
Many of the officers are members of the community, and Cowart explained that getting rid of the police department will create a deeper divide within the city.
"I've had two guys, two of my officers that actually relocated and moved here since they've been employed for the city so it's sort of a slap in their face because they relocated because they loved your city," said Cowart. "This is your city that they've grown to love and we do, we love the citizens here, we're just like family and to tell us, hey you're going to be the first people to, it's always the police department (to be) the first place they want to cut, that's ridiculous."
In spite of all the troubles the city is facing, Cowart said the city has not, and will continue to not go without protection.
"One of the main things that we need people to understand is, we are still here. Even with one officer per shift. They may think it's that, but we do have officers that come in and donate their time so that their brother, or sister, is not working alone, or having to deal alone. And myself, I still answer calls; I still help out the officers," said Cowart. "So people need to understand, if you come to Lumberton, and break the law, you will go to jail. I mean, you can still be prosecuted as if we're full force. We're going to continue to make sure that the citizens are safe. And if they send us home then, we're just going to cross that bridge when we get there."