Conversation with the Chief

Now that Meridian's new police chief has had a month to settle in to his new job, how are things going? Lee Shelbourn says people have been fair with him, despite the bumpy road at the start.

"I operate on two cliches. Firm, fair and consistent. The other is, do right, do the best you can, and treat others the way you want to be treated," said Shelbourn. "And that's all I expect for people to do."

His hiring was controversial. Shelbourn was replacing a long-time chief and veteran Meridian police officer who is African-American. This did not sit well with some members of the community.

Some people were frustrated with the process. It was an issue the new chief had not faced. So now, as he has settles into his new job, what does he think about the controversy?

"I knew when I was coming in, what I was all about," said Shelbourn. "But that's what makes our country so great is the freedom of speech. What was said about me was incorrect. But I hold no animosity, no hard feelings, because these people have a right to their opinions. They have that right."

During his swearing in, things had cooled some, as outgoing chief Benny Dubose stood next to him during the ceremony.

"When all this occurred during my swearing in, Chief Dubose just happened to be working with me. And he came in. I asked if he would mind staying in with me. He said yes. That pleased me. I totally supported him. I have the utmost respect for him," Shelbourn said.

Chief Shelbourn spent twenty-six years in the Mississippi Department of Public Safety, ten years of that time in the Bureau of Narcotics. For eight years he was a training officer with MHP. Shelbourn was with the Hattiesburg Police Department from 1969 to 1973. He was chief of police in Petal, his hometown, before being replaced by a new mayor.


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