City police lieutenants question lack of testing for captain

Published 12:00 am Thursday, September 14, 2000

Fearing the rank of captain will be eliminated from positions at the Vicksburg Police Department, four lieutenants addressed the city’s Civil Service Commission Wednesday.

“Does the commission feel it is legally and proper and non-impartial to give promotional exams for sergeants and lieutenants only,’ when positions are available that are set up to to be headed by captains, yet those officers qualified not be given the opportunity?” read a letter signed by seven of the department’s 14 lieutenants.

The letter went on to ask, “Has the administration, by their own choice or been given permission to eliminate the police captain position from the ranks?”

Lts. David Beard, Walter Beamon, Fred Hall-Hudson and John Janotta presented the letter and pointed out that promotion exams for sergeants and lieutenants were administered June 13. A captain’s exam was last given in 1996.

Like the military, the rank of captain is higher than lieutenant, which tops sergeant, and the captain’s position pays about $2,145 more than lieutenant.

After hearing from the lieutenants, commission members said the decision of when promotion exams are given is made by the city administration and the police chief.

Asked after the meeting if elimination of captain positions is planned, Chief Mitchell Dent said, “We have some plans but I am not going to discuss it.”

The department currently has five captains, but Civil Service requires no predetermined number of captains, who answer to deputy chiefs.

Commissioner Joe Graham said the commission has not been approached by the Board of Mayor and Aldermen to consider eliminating the captain position.

“If the question is is there a need for the captain position?’ that is up to the administration,” Graham said. “It is premature to say what we would do because we haven’t been asked.”

Alderman Gertrude Young said the idea of eliminating the position had not come to the board.

“At this point I think the question is moot,” Young said.

Mayor Robert Walker, police commissioner under the city charter, was out of town and not available for comment.

Hall-Hudson, who works in the Juvenile Division, said vacant positions in his area and in Narcotics have normally been filled by captains.

“I am satisfied with the answer the board gave me because now I understand,” Hall-Hudson said.

Beamon, who was replaced as the head of the Narcotics Division Tuesday and moved to Criminal Investigation, said he already talked to Dent about his concerns.

“I am satisfied with the answers he gave me,” he said. He refused to say what the chief told him.

The commission, made up of three members appointed by the Board of Mayor and Aldermen, is a review panel charged with keeping politics out of employment and promotions at the city’s police and fire departments.

It prepares, approves and administers study guides and written tests that are part of the city’s promotional process.

The letter presented Wednesday was also signed by Lts. Carl Bennett, Linda Hearn and Roosevelt Bunch.