Police leader recommends outgoing chief for top position

Police leader recommends outgoing chief for top position

HATTIESBURG, MS (WDAM) - The assistant chief of the Hattiesburg Police Department sent a letter to city council members and the mayor recommending outgoing Chief Frazier Bolton for the chief position.

Assistant Chief Frank Misenhelter sent the letter June 1, stating the city experienced a "major decrease" in crime with Bolton as the leader of the department for the past eight years.

"This comes at a time when our city and our department have suffered the unimaginable loss of two wonderful men, and I want to express my concerns that the Hattiesburg Police Department needs and desires to have a respected, competent and proven leader as our chief," Misenhelter wrote.

Bolton announced his retirement in February, for what Mayor Johnny DuPree called personal reasons, and he has served as the Director of Public Safety since then. Misenhelter, once thought to be a contender for the spot, and Major Hardy Sims have acted as chief of HPD since that announcement.

Although Bolton has not been officially nominated by DuPree, the Hattiesburg Fraternal Order of Police issued a unanimous vote of no confidence should he be nominated.

"During Commissioner Bolton's tenure as Chief of Police, the Hattiesburg Police Department experienced severe instability with the department's structure, officer assignments, and directives," HFOP President Allen Murray wrote in a letter dated June 1 to the city council and mayor.

Murray called Bolton's leadership style autocratic, writing it was used "to intimidate and punish officers into submission instead of fostering a true guidance."

Outgoing city attorney Charles Lawrence said he had not discussed a nomination for Bolton with the mayor, although he was aware of Misenhelter's letter.

"The mayor could very well be testing the waters to see what support is out there," Lawrence said.

The HFOP additionally issued a majority vote of confidence for retired Major Tony Davis as a nomination for chief of police. That letter, sent to the city council and mayor on June 1, said Davis has expressed interest in the job and he is still a peace officer in a specialized area and current on law enforcement guidelines.

The chief of police position is the final of 17 appointed positions for the mayor and council to fill.

DuPree will appear in Forrest County Circuit Court Thursday, June 4 at 11 a.m. to face a contempt of court finding by special appointed Judge Breland Hilburn for failing to nominate qualified directors in a timely manner.