Two Columbus Police Department officers have jumped ship for the Lowndes County Sheriff’s Office, according to Mayor Keith Gaskin.
During an executive session after Thursday morning’s work session, the council unanimously voted to accept the resignations of two CPD officers, effective immediately, so that they may go to their next jobs.
Gaskin said after the meeting he thought the officers were bound for the Metro Narcotics Task Force.
Sheriff Eddie Hawkins, when contacted by The Dispatch Thursday afternoon, confirmed he had hired two CPD officers.
“I made offers to two city officers,” Hawkins said. “To answer the question on whether they were going to the task force, I’m making some adjustments in my department so I don’t know yet. We’re going to look at that, but most likely (the Task Force is) where they’re going.”
Gaskin would not release the identities of the officers, but Hawkins confirmed that they are Max Branch and Lance Luckey.
Branch worked in the investigations division and was Gaskin’s pick in a failed effort to create a city marshal position in 2022. Luckey was one of the city’s task force agents.
“I think it’s going to be really good,” Hawkins said. “I’m not done yet. I’ve still got a couple more slots to fill.”
The Metro Narcotics Unit, most recently established in 2017, included four officers each from LCSO and CPD, as well as a supervisor from LCSO.
In late February, Police Chief Joseph Daughtry announced he was temporarily reassigning the four city agents to combat manpower shortages and overtime issues in his department.
Daughtry said there was no timeline on when those officers would return, and he would work with the Mississippi Bureau of Narcotics for drug enforcement inside the city.
The county alleged this was a violation of the interlocal agreement that set up the task force, which requires 90 days notice be given before it is dissolved. At its March 6 meeting supervisors lit the fuse on that notice. Hawkins said at that time task force agents will continue to work cases inside the city limits as well as in the county.
On Wednesday, supervisors amended Hawkins’ budget by about $288,000 to allow him to hire four new drug agents.
Gaskin, speaking after Thursday’s executive session, said the city officers resigning was a separate issue from CPD’s ongoing manpower shortage.
“This has been an ongoing saga with the police and sheriff’s office,” Gaskin said. “People are going back and forth between the two, and sometimes when that happens it causes a lot of talk and pushback between the two departments. I’m hoping that will not be the case here.”
Gaskin said city and county leaders still had not talked about the dissolution of the task force.
“I think that we’re as far down the road as we are and that hasn’t happened is, in my opinion, not the best way to handle these types of issues,” he said.
Brian Jones is the local government reporter for Columbus and Lowndes County.
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