County Watching Police/Sheriff's Department Negotiations

Harrison County Sheriff George Payne says he can save the City of Long Beach about $650,000 a year if his deputies begin patrolling the city streets. While Long Beach Aldermen consider Payne's proposal, the county supervisors are closely watching the negotiations and fielding calls from Long Beach citizens.

"There's some concerns rom the citizens of Long Beach that they would be losing a significant part of their government and they have some concerns, but I think it's incumbent upon us to listen to the citizens before any decisions are made," District 3 Supervisor Marlin Ladner said.

The board is also concerned that if the sheriff's department takes over Long Beach, the county could be named in a federal sexual harassment lawsuit now pending against the city.

"That's something we're watching very closely because we don't want to drag those people into this thing as well because we represent all the taxpayers and the citizens of this county, both the municipalities and outside the corporate city limits," Supervisor President Larry Benefield said.

Eighteen police department employees would lose their jobs. Sheriff Payne proposes elminating the jobs as a way to stop duplication of services.

"Too many investigators or whatever the case may be is part of the problem I understand that's out there now," Benefield said. "So if that be the case, and we can do it with the same personnel both for the county and the City of Long Beach, then so be it. I think that'll be the best for the citizens over there to pay the bills."

The supervisors say there are still many details to work out before any final decisions are made on the future of the Long Beach Police Department.