Chief Lee Responds to Sheriff's Criticism

Meridian, Miss. Meridian's police chief, James Lee, responded Wednesday to Sheriff Billy Sollie's claim that he is a 'bully'.
Sollie made the comment Tuesday in answering questions from members of the Downtown Meridian Optimist Club. The sheriff was invited to speak to the group.

Sollie told the group how he felt Chief Lee disrespected he and his chief deputy during a meeting about the East Mississippi Drug Task Force.

"He's entitled to his opinion like any other free American. The reports of me being a tough disciplinarian, those are absolutely true because I am a tough disciplinarian," said Lee. "I'm not running a Girl Scout camp; I'm running the police department. I will protect this city. I have said that since the day that I got hired. I've got 120 employees. I cannot make everybody happy, but what I can do is protect this city."

Lee says he holds Sheriff Sollie in high regard.

"He's the head law enforcement guy in the county and elected official," said Lee. "If the sheriff picks that phone up and says I need help, this entire police department is coming to his aid; I'll be leading them so I know that we'll get there on time."

When asked if he plans to offer an apology to the sheriff, Chief Lee said 'no comment'.

However, he did stress that he respects the sheriff as the head of law enforcement in Lauderdale County, and went on to say that he and his officers will gladly work with the sheriff's department at any time.

Noting that the meeting in question took place weeks ago, Mayor Percy Bland calls what happened a misunderstanding.

"The bottom line of it is that there was some things probably communicated on both ends that they both probably, looking back on it, may not have said, or should not have said," said Bland. "Some of the things that have probably not held us together are because we had to make tough decisions as it is related to our contracts this year, from our jail contract, to our ankle bracelet contracts, to our contract on the drug task force."

Lee said he'll have 30 additional officers on patrol throughout the city on Halloween night, even though it will require overtime pay. He said it shows his department's commitment to safety.