Hattiesburg continues search for police chief

Hattiesburg continues search for police chief

Hattiesburg Mayor Johnny DuPree is back to the drawing board to find someone to lead the Hattiesburg Police Department.

His third nominee, who was presented to the city council for a vote Tuesday night, was never voted on due to a motion to approve dying on the floor.

Current chief deputy of the Hinds County Sheriff's Department Ron Sampson was DuPree's nominee for HPD chief of police, but a 'second' to Ward 2 Councilwoman Deborah Delgado's motion to approve Sampson never surfaced.

Council President Kim Bradley urged the mayor to find someone within HPD to promote to chief, getting affirmation from the mayor that it is a "great department."

Bradley said he wanted DuPree to nominate Assistant Chief Frank Misenhelter, who is serving dual capacity of police chief with Major Hardy Sims. Bradley believed Misenhelter's nomination had been unofficially discussed, but he said he believed "those in the black community have squished that."

Misenhelter is white, and Bradley said, "they feel that they need to have a black police chief," calling the situation "very unfortunate."

Bradley's comments on race referred to a person who spoke during the council's Citizens Forum Monday evening, who Bradley said made a statement that a black police chief was needed to serve under a black mayor.

"We need to get past race," Bradley said. "Our city was so wonderful last week in a tragedy, and we have an opportunity to come together and work together. Let's get this police department back to what it is."

All of DuPree's three police chief nominees this term have been black.

DuPree was set to appear in Forrest County Circuit Court this Thursday to defend his untimeliness of presenting nominees for department heads, but that date was moved to June 4. DuPree was found to be in civil contempt of court by special appointed Judge Breland Hilburn earlier this month. Judge Hilburn said then that if DuPree could not give reason to not be found in contempt, he would be put in custody of the Forrest County Sheriff.

The chief of police position is the final of 17 nominations the mayor must make.