Lauderdale County, Miss. Lauderdale County Sheriff Billy Sollie says it would be difficult to assist the Meridian Police Department in its fight against crime.
Meridian Police Chief James Lee has made it very clear that he intends to put an end to the frequent and violent criminal activity taking place in the city. While he is taking steps within the department, he says the police department also needs help from the outside.
"This administration, as far as the police department goes, welcomes the help of the Lauderdale County Sheriff's Department," Chief Lee says. "Our sheriff as you know is the chief law enforcement executive for this county."
"We have over 650 more miles of territory to cover than the city does," Sheriff Sollie says. "We've got the same number of residents living outside the city as the city does. We've got half the personnel that he has. We're pretty stretched right now trying to provide the call for service to those residents outside the city."
Of course, the relationship between Chief Lee and Sheriff Billy Sollie has been strained following a drug task force meeting in Sollie's office where the sheriff says Lee asked Chief Deputy Ward Calhoun to leave the meeting. The city eventually withdrew from the East Mississippi Drug Task Force. Chief lee said at the time the move was budget related.
"I've had no conversations with the chief since the incident that occurred in my office last fall," Sollie adds.
Differences aside, Sheriff Sollie says the crime issue is one that goes way beyond the Meridian Police Department. He says the notion of a lack of punishment is actually to blame.
"As we all know, the Southern Poverty Law Center has been in Lauderdale County for a number of years now," the sheriff explains. "The mentality's been bred in our youth that there's nothing you can do to to me. That I can commit whatever crime, you have no jail space, you have no juvenile detention facility."