The McComb Police Department’s patrol officer shortage has widened as three officers have taken jobs with the Pike County Sheriff's Office, but Police Chief Garland Ward maintains it is a momentary setback.

“The police department has already had a shortage of officers,” Ward said, adding that former chief Damian Gatlin discussed the shortage many times. “With that being said, we are still going to do our job and control the city. Our number-one priority is to serve McComb, and I’ve put things in place to make sure the city of McComb remains protected.”

Ward said five officers have left since he took the office, but noted none of the resignations were on bad terms, and the department is working to fill those positions.

“The hiring process is going well,” he said. “We have a few applications out. If I am lucky, I should be able to present applicants to the board, not at the next meeting, but the one after that. Ten people signed up to take the civil service exam, so we have things in place to replace the officers that left.”

He said the officers who left did so to provide for their families and he did not force any officers to resign.

“You can talk to officers and try to keep them, but you can’t stop them when they think it is what is best for their family,” he said.

Sheriff James Brumfield said the officers he hired applied when he first came into office, and now that he had openings, he was able to add them to his force them. Brumfield said he did not recruit the officers, nor did he create positions specifically for them.

Ward recently announced that the department would not longer offer escorts for businesses and funerals due to the manpower shortage.

In other news, Mayor Quordiniah Lockley and board attorney Angela Cockerham, along with Ward, completed an amended policy on the use of force for the police department, which would ban the use of chokeholds on citizens.

“Everything in here we already do,” Ward said while mentioning the policy during Tuesday’s city board work session.

Possibly the biggest addition would be that all officers are required to give a comprehensive report when that officer discharges his firearm in any instance.

The amendment will required officers to de-escalate situations when possible by communicating with subjects, maintaining distance and otherwise “eliminating the need to use force.”

It bans the use of chokeholds, strangleholds, hogtying, placing a knee on someone’s neck or any other use of force that limits a person’s ability to breathe.

The policy aims to prevent “the unnecessary death or serious injury of community members.”

“As far as I am concerned, any officer caught choking a citizen for me is an automatic termination,” Ward said in a previous board meeting when the policy amendment was brought up.

It requires officers to exhaust all other means of restraint before resorting to deadly force, and it also requires officers to give a verbal warning before shooting at a subject unless there are circumstances where giving a verbal warning is impossible.

The board is expected to vote on the ammendment in next Tuesday’s board meeting.

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