Biloxi cop hired for No. 2 spot in Vicksburg

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, November 20, 2001

[11/20/2001]A second high-ranking officer with the Biloxi Police Department is coming to Vicksburg and will be deputy chief, replacing two others.

During a closed session Monday, the mayor and aldermen voted to hire Richard O’Bannon to replace Mitchell Dent, former chief for 19 months, and Jack Dowe.

Although no official action was taken by the board, both Dent and Dowe will reportedly return to their earlier positions as captains.

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Police Chief Tommy Moffett, sworn in here last month after his retirement as chief in Biloxi, said he wanted a new deputy chief from outside the department to help change the perception of favoritism within the department.

“In order to change that perception, I can’t have people next to me who helped make the department the way it is,” Moffett said.

“We’re going to have a better department and I’m going to do the things necessary to move it forward,” Moffett said.

O’Bannon, to arrive in two weeks, has worked in the Biloxi Police Department for about 27 years and is retiring before taking the position here. His last position there was as chief investigator, Moffett said.

He is “a good leader and well versed in the law,” Moffett said. “He is a stickler when it comes to cases and investigations.”

O’Bannon’s salary was set at $46,500 a year. Dent was being paid $41,000 a year as a deputy chief. Moffett is being paid $80,000.

After being replaced as chief, Dent, an ordained minister and graduate of the FBI Academy, accepted a position of interim deputy chief.

In September, the deputy chief positions held by Janelle Lee and Frank Phelps were eliminated by the board, leaving the department with one deputy chief, Dowe. Lee and Phelps were returned to their previous ranks as lieutenants.

Before the promotions of Lee, Phelps and Dowe in April 2000, the department had operated with one deputy chief as it will again with O’Bannon.

When the city board members took office in July, all department heads, including charter officers such as the police and fire chiefs and city attorney, were retained. Since then, personnel manager Wayne Roberts was fired and Dent has been replaced.

No one has been hired to replace Roberts in the personnel department.

At the time of Moffett’s swearing-in, Leyens said the city board would allow Moffett to run the department without interference including deciding all hirings, promotions and disciplinary actions.

“We’re supporting Chief Moffett and allowing him to run his department,” Leyens said.

Separately during the executive session, the city board voted to deduct one day of pay from a police officer who was not at his assigned post during his shift.

Leyens said the decision to dock Lt. Carl Bennett was made after Moffett saw Bennett somewhere outside of the police department on Nov. 12. Bennett’s time sheet indicated he was on duty in the department’s evidence lockup.

“It’s all about accountability,” Moffett said. “People are going to do what they’re told to do. I’m not going to settle for anything less.”