The Starkville Police Department is facing a two-fold loss in funds in services following the exit of five veteran officers and the non-renewal of a contract with a prisoner transport service.
Chief David Lindley expounded Thursday on the two situations, which he explained briefly to the public during Tuesday”s Starkville Board of Aldermen meeting.
The five officers, all veterans with more than two years on the force, tendered their resignations and have already moved to positions with the Mississippi Highway Safety Patrol.
A citizen at the aldermen meeting questioned Lindley about the reason for the departures, to which Lindley replied the MHSP”s starting salary is $37,000, as opposed to $32,000 at the SPD. (A report in Wednesday”s Dispatch erroneously stated SPD officers begin at a base pay of $35,000.)
Lindley said the department will advertise to fill the five positions, but estimated the total cost in terms of time lost to training at approximately $50,000 per veteran officer.
“Obviously, if we lose five officers, that”s a $250,000 investment including all total expenses that”s unrecoverable,” he said.
Part of those expenses will come in the form of overtime pay to some of the remaining 53 officers as they distribute the five vacant shifts. And Lindley is uncertain if more officers will move to the MHSP in the future, considering all five officers who applied were accepted.
He said the department will work to minimize the tangible effects of the vacancies with regard to serving the public.
“Certainly some calls (for assistance) will have to be prioritized and service will have to be impacted,” said Lindley.
Compounding the problem is the loss of prisoner transport services from North Atlantic Extradition Service, the company which formerly shuttled SPD prisoners to and from the Clay County Jail.
In addition to transport services, the SPD had contracted with NAES since 2008 to house prisoners at the Clay County Jail due to a lack of space at the Oktibbeha County Jail. The contract was for $215,000 per year, which guaranteed the SPD 15 beds at the Clay County Jail at a cost of $35 per night per bed.
Clay County Chief Deputy Eddie Scott said NAES pulled out of its contract with the Clay County Sheriff”s Office June 30. NAES, which is owned and operated by former Lowndes County Sheriff”s Office Chief Deputy Tony Mulligan, functioned as a middle-man between the Clay County Jail and neighboring entities, shopping contracts and leasing beds for the jail. NAES was responsible for booking the contracted entities” inmates, providing clothing and all transport for those inmates, including taking sick inmates to the emergency room, although Scott said the CCSO would help out, if necessary, in the latter circumstance.
With the CCSO now handling NAES”s former contracts, the 15 beds per night are still guaranteed to the SPD — although the SPD averages 20 inmates per night with extra beds priced at $42 per night — but the department, as Lindley stated, “is now back in the prisoner transport business.”
In addition to increased fuel costs, Lindley expects at least two officers to be tied up with transport duties when Municipal Court is in session. This, he said, will lead to more overtime hours.
The SPD is currently searching for alternatives to transporting its own prisoners but, according to Lindley, no such companies are “geographically close enough to be affordable.”
Jason Browne was previously a reporter for The Dispatch.