| By Jason C. Mattox
After serving for 26 years with the Batesville Police Department, Chief Gerald Legge is set to retire tomorrow.
Legge, 47, joined the force at age 21 after taking classes in criminal justice at Northwest Community College. He became a patrolman under then-chief Troy Carver and later served under Chief Roger Vanlandingham, whom he succeeded as chief in 2005.
Legge served as deputy chief under Vanlandingham from 1990 to 2005.
A reception honoring Legge will be held Wednesday, February 28, from 11 a.m. – 1 p.m. at the Batesville Police Department on College Street. The public is invited.
Job-hunting in the early days, he didn’t bother to submit an application in another town, he said.
"I guess that’s because this is home. I graduated from South Panola High School, and it just seemed right to stay here and serve the community."
And it’s here that he and his wife Sareeta have raised their daughter, Lisa Beth, a senior at South Panola High School.
"When I first started as a patrolman, Batesville had more of a small town feel to it," he remembered. "Now the town has grown and is a lot busier.
"The department itself has grown exponentially since I first started too," Legge added. "We have a lot more manpower and better equipment, but that comes when a city experiences the kind of growth Batesville has over the years."
The chief said the support of the Mayor and Board of Aldermen over those years has been important to the growth of the department.
"The board has always been supportive of this department when it came to additional equipment, manpower and training," he said. "We have been very lucky because there are departments in the state that don’t have the kind of relationship with the board that our department has."
Legge has spent much of his career involved in the DARE (Drug Awareness Resistance Education) program in which police officers visit schoolchildren and make presentations to educate them about drug abuse and to encourage positive behavior and life choices.
"When Chief Carver was here, the department received a grant that called for us to do something in the schools to educate the children," he said. "I was not really sure how to do that."
Legge is now a certified DARE instructor and plans to continue working to train officers for the program.
"I have already been contacted about three training classes for DARE, and now that they know about my retirement that will probably go up," he said.
Legge said his law enforcement career was assisted greatly by both chiefs under whom he served.
"Chief Carver helped me out substantially when it came to actual patrolling and law enforcement techniques, and Chief (Roger) Vanlandingham helped me learn more about the administrative portion of the job," he said.
Legge also praised aldermen for their quick decision to name Col. Tony Jones as his successor.
"Tony is a good man and knows how the department runs," he said. "He will have a good support team around him with Don Province serving as deputy chief."