Group Objects to Barry Appointments

A Meridian group is asking Meridian Mayor Cheri Barry to reconsider her choice for the new chief of police.

Barry will announce her picks to serve as Meridian police chief, as well as fire chief, during Tuesday's council meeting.

At a Monday news conference, the Meridian-Lauderdale County chapter of the NAACP and a newly formed Diversity and Inclusion Committee, which is not directly affiliated with the NAACP, said the person who is expected to be appointed police chief is not qualified.

Barry has not yet confirmed her choice for police chief, but reliable sources revealed last week that it will be Lee Shelbourn, former chief of Petal, Miss., who was fired after a new mayor and board took office there this summer.

"He is a former police chief for the city of Petal, which has a population of 7,800, whereas Meridian has a population of 40,000," said spokesperson Melba Clark. "In Petal, the population is 93% white; in Meridian, it's 54% black. We are also concerned about the way he was dismissed. There was apparent collusion and lack of openness which Mayor Barry promised she would have in her administration. He was told to either retire or get fired and he retired and that's not being open."

"We want the mayor to know that in her campaign statement and promises that we were actually listening and we were not just there," said Milton Johnson, NAACP president. "And we want her to recognize that we as a community of citizens are diverse and if we work together we can reach a level of inclusiveness for all of Meridian."

Shelbourn is a former state trooper and a 30-year law enforcement veteran. He was chief of Petal from 2002-2009.

Last week, Barry said, "I'm looking for the best and the brightest. I'm not entering into the race factors. I'm looking for the best people that can help me run Meridian." She asked Chief Benny Dubose, who has been a career Meridian officer who was appointed chief by former mayor, John Robert Smith, to submit his resignation.

In terms of the alleged lack of openness, group members say this is becoming a pattern for Mayor Barry and they want something done about it. In an effort to get something done, the group is meeting Monday at 7 p.m. at Clark's Funeral Home to discuss the matter further.

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