MPD Chief Firing: Council Members Respond

Although most city council members were not available for an interview, Newscenter 11 was able to talk with two of them about Mayor Percy Bland's announcement concerning Meridian's police chief being fired.

"Surprised" is how Meridian City Council Vice-President, Dustin Markham says he felt when he was first informed about Mayor Percy Bland's decision to fire MPD Chief James Lee.

"Well, I respect the mayor's decision," says Markham. "It was a tough decision to make, and I think that he did a good job in coming to that decision. We have to have stability in our police force to make sure that the city is moving forward in a positive way."

Despite the fact that Ward 5 Councilman Randy Hammon was the only member of the city council to vote against hiring Chief Lee last July, he says that he did agree with some of the chief's policies.

"I liked his plans, and the code enforcement things that he stands for and everything," says Hammon, "but I thought that maybe, maybe he couldn't handle a bigger environment, and I think that the pressure of a bigger environment was an issue. See, his background was with smaller cities so he didn't have as many people to manage."

As for looking to the future, Councilman Hammon says his initial preference is to look within the department for a new chief. However, he stresses that he's also open to closely considering candidates from other areas.

"That's a big department, and a very responsible department," says Hammon. "So, I'm willing to hear their ideas."

"Whoever is the best person for the job; whoever can do the best job for the city of Meridian; whoever has the credentials to do the best job for the city of Meridian, I'm on board with," says Markham. "If it comes internally, it comes internally. If it comes externally, it comes externally."