Gulfport Mayor Looking Nationwide To Find New Police Chief

To choose the next police chief in Gulfport, Mayor Brent Warr has resumes from across the country.

"I feel we owe it to the citizens and to the department to look at the most qualified applicants and that's nationally," he says.

The mayor says he prefers to pick from within the police department but he makes no promises.

"If we bring in someone from out of town this time, it will only mean that we'll try to create new spots for the people who are remaining to move up and we'll always encourage that. It would be wonderful, and I hope that we can choose a candidate from within the department, but we're going to choose the best candidate."

As far as two council members are concerned, that candidate is already on the job in the police department and the mayor doesn't need to look outside.

Council President Barbara Nalley says, "I strongly feel that certainly wouldn't do anything to boost the morale that's already at a very low point. We're all on the same page. If there's a qualified applicant within our police department, that's where we feel the new director should come from."

Ward 4 Councilman Jackie Smith says, "If we've got this particular person in the City of Gulfport, already in the police department, that already knows what's going on in our city, I'm in favor of hiring within the city, within the police department."

The two council members say no matter who wears the city's top badge, he'll have a lot on his plate. Since the storm, 20 police employees have left the department. Officers say morale is bad, they're tired, and they need a leader who will guide them through what's expected to be a tough next few years.

Smith says, "I think a lot's going to be on his plate. After Katrina the men had to put many extra hours in. He's going to have to be a person in a leadership role, some educational background, high standards and I know our police officers are tired."

No one in the city could tell us how many people are applying for the chief's job. Mayor Warr says if there is a tie between the in-house officer and an outsider, he will choose the officer already in the department.

The mayor expects to name a new chief before the end of the month. But the city council has final approval, and Barbara Nalley says the mayor has no veto power in this issue.

Outgoing Chief Steve Barnes says there are qualified officers who should be given an opportunity to serve as chief rather than going outside.