Rawlings unveils plan for police chief|[3/3/05]

Published 12:00 am Thursday, March 3, 2005

Democratic mayoral hopeful Eric Rawlings said today that if elected he will appoint his high school hero and long-time friend to head the Vicksburg Police Department.

Rawlings, 42, predicted this morning he will be elected and that he will make Dale Erves, 46, the next police chief. Rawlings said that although it is unusual for a candidate to announce nominations for city officers before talking office, he didn’t want to leave people wondering.

“I know that I’m going to win and I don’t want to hold the people hostage waiting to find out who the next police chief will be,” Rawlings said.

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The position of police chief is one of five appointive posts defined in the city charter. The others are city clerk, city sexton, city attorney and fire chief. It takes two votes on the three-member city board to affirm a selection.

Erves, a Vicksburg native and 22-year veteran of the Dallas Police Department, is a motorcycle officer. He said he does not hold a supervisory role in Dallas, but is ready to take over Vicksburg’s force.

“I’ve worked for five different police chiefs and I’ve seen what they did that worked and what didn’t work and I know what to do and what not to do,” Erves said.

Erves said he believes a lack of leadership is the problem today with the police department, and that he would work to bring up the morale of the officers. He also said that the city needs more police officers because of its four casinos.

Today, the department has about 70 officers. Tommy Moffett, former chief in Biloxi, has been chief here since October 2001 after unanimous selection by the Board of Mayor and Aldermen.

“You’ve got two victims here under this current administration. The citizens and the officers,” Erves said.

Incumbent Mayor Laurence Leyens, 40, made police operations a main issue of his campaign four years ago. Former Police Chief Mitchell Dent had remained in the post several months after the new board took office, but was demoted after Moffett was selected. Dent was chief for 18 months.

Leyens said today he is satisfied with the improvements in the police department and is pleased with his police chief.

“Chief Moffett has done an excellent job, and our board will continue to pursue excellence in the Vicksburg Police Department,” Leyens said.

The department’s leadership has come under fire since the start of the political season, even before the first candidates filed to run. Some have complained that the department, which had about 108 officers before Moffett was hired, is now understaffed.

Rawlings will have to survive a Democratic primary election before facing the incumbent mayor for the $73,000-a-year position as mayor. Unless others file before 5 p.m. Friday, he will face Charles Selmon, 44, and John Shorter, 38, in May 3 voting.

The winner of the primary will advance to the general election to face independent candidates Leyens and former Mayor Joe Loviza, 65.