Shuffles, promotions announced at VPD

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, September 13, 2000

The Vicksburg Police Department’s Narcotics Division has been overhauled, and its commander has been replaced.

Lt. Billy Brown will now head the division formerly led by Lt. Walter Beamon. Beamon was reassigned as a criminal investigator in the Detective Division.

The move was announced by Chief Mitchell Dent Tuesday along with 18 sergeant and lieutenant promotions. It is the second major change Dent has made since being sworn in as chief in February.

The first came in April when he named Janelle Lee, Jack Dowe and Frank Phelps deputy chiefs. The department had previously operated with one deputy chief.

“I appreciate the opportunity I’ve been given,” Brown said.

The nine and a half-year veteran of the force said he feels his six years as a detective will benefit narcotics operations that work from a separate building than the new police headquarters.

“I think I can take my training and my experiences and make a difference in the community,” Brown said.

Patrol Officer Taffi Mills and Sgt. Tom Wilson were also moved from narcotics. Mills was transferred to the Neighborhood Enhancement Team and Wilson is now a shift supervisor in patrol.

Wilson, an eight-year department veteran, has moved from narcotics before. In 1997, Wilson resigned from narcotics during the move of several narcotics officers to the patrol division. He returned to narcotics a year later.

“I am excited about this opportunity. It is going to serve as a real challenge,” Wilson said Tuesday.

The Narcotics Division was chastised by repeated terms of the Warren County Grand Jury and statistics showed the number of cases made by its officers dropping rapidly while cases made by patrol officers and Warren County Sheriff’s Department detectives rising.

Narcotics officers are also defendants in the on-going false arrest lawsuit brought by oral surgeon Dr. James Ruggles.

In other moves, Detective Jimmy Sweet, who was allowed to finish taking the sergeant’s exam in August two months after first sitting for it, was put on the promotional list, but was not promoted.

In a Civil Service Commission appearance, Sweet threatened legal action against the city because, he said, he’d seen a notice saying the exam would contain 100 questions and it contained 125. He was later allowed to finish the test and Deputy Chief Frank Phelps said Sweet passed the exam.

The rule of two thirds call for the promotional process to begin with the first three names on the promotional list, and that’s where Sweet fell short.

Dent said he feels the changes being made will make the 106-member department stronger.

“If you take people who have experience and expertise in a certain area and move them into another position that knowledge is going to trickle down to others,” Dent said.

He added that none of the changes were due to problems in patrol or narcotics.

“This gives an officer an opportunity to gain different knowledge and that will increase their efficiency and effectiveness,” Dent said.

Brown will see his $28,000-a-year salary raised by about $1,000, due to his promotion to lieutenant and Beamon’s salary will remain at $29,000.

Dent said the changes in the department will not change the $6.1 million budget for the fiscal year 2001.