Meridian, Mississippi "My experience level leads me to this chair, and more importantly god helped me get here."
That was new Meridian Police Chief James Lee, just a few days after Meridian's city council confirmed Mayor Percy Bland's choice on July 2nd of last year. The last ten months, by all accounts, have been rocky ones.
Lee had celebrated successes, such as the seizure of more than $300,000 of cash in a traffic stop right after Lee was hired and the implementation of his "See Something, Say Something" initiative. But controversy and contention came quickly.
By the fall, the Meridian Police Department had pulled out of the drug task force, leaving the sheriff's department with the full drug-fighting burden for the city and county. A dormant police union re-organized and officers had started coming forward, filing complaints of
mistreatment and civil rights violations by their new leader.
Several longtime police officers were terminated, including the president of the police union and public information officer, Captain Dean Harper.
The lack of affection between longtime Sheriff Billy Sollie and the chief was no secret, the sheriff referring to Lee in public as a 'bully', following what he felt was a disrespectful meeting.
Civil service hearings for terminated police officers were delayed repeatedly after Meridian's Mayor Percy Bland notified four of the five commissioners he was removing them from office.
In March, Chief Lee was suspended without pay for a week after an equal opportunity officer found Lee created a hostile work environment for police officer, J.C. Lewis.