| By Jason C. Mattox
A 30-year veteran of the Batesville Police Department recently completed his first week as chief.
Tony Jones, 57, who joined the ranks of the department in 1977 as a patrolman, became the second straight chief to come from within the department. The other was his predecessor, the recently retired Gerald Legge Jr.
Jones came to the Batesville PD after spending years in construction.
"I was looking for something different," he said. "This provided me with some benefits, but most importantly, it presented me with a chance to make a difference in the lives of the people of this city."
After first applying to the department, it took nearly three months before Jones was hired to the department, but after his hiring, he has risen through the ranks.
Jones attended the Law Enforcement Training Academy in Pearl in 1978, and shortly after his return was promoted to the rank of sergeant.
"We didn’t have near as many officers back then as we do now," he said. "Back in the late 70s, this was still what many would consider a small town."
Jones was the first officer in the Batesville Police Department to attend the FBI National Academy. He graduated in 1984, and returned to the department where he served as the first Lt. Detective in BPD’s history.
"Before the detective division was established, all of the officers would handle their own investigations when they got the time," he said. "It worked out well for the department and the city to have someone who was focussed on investigations."
Shortly after attaining the rank of Det. Captain, Jones was again promoted. This time to the rank of Administrative Captain.
"That was a lot of paperwork," he said. "It allowed me to know more about how that part of the department worked, but I was still overseeing the detective division as well."
Jones’ next promotion would be to the rank of major, one he held until 2005 when he was named Deputy Chief under Legge.
"Chief Legge was the fifth chief I worked under during my career," he said. "Each one of them taught me different things that I feel have prepared me to be the chief of this department," he said.
Jones said the mayor and board of aldermen’s decision to remain in-house for a second straight chief means a lot to the men who serve in the City of Batesville.
"It’s important in more ways than one," he said. "Firstly, this provides the officers with a sense of continuity. There were some who were worried the board would go outside of the department for the next chief.
"Second, it shows the men who might just be starting with the department that if they stick with it and continue to do a good job, they might get the chance to be chief," Jones added.
Jones said he would like to personally thank city leaders for the opportunity to lead the department.
"I want to thank them for believing in me," he said. "This job is a big responsibility, and one that I believe I am prepared for."
The chief said he is working on some changes that will make this department and the city a better place.
"We are focussed on getting as many of the drugs off the streets as we possibly can," he said. "Every drug user or dealer we take off the street makes it safer for the people of this city.
"I am also working to find a way of raising our starting pay for officers," Jones added. "These men are out there everyday putting their lives on the line."
The chief said he hopes a higher starting salary will help recruit new officers into the department.
"People don’t want to get into local law enforcement," he said. "Everyone interested in law enforcement wants to go into a larger agency right off the bat. Local law enforcement is just as important."
Jones said he is unsure how long he will lead, saying it would be "as long as the good Lord will let me."
"Mayor [Jerry] Autrey said I am going to be in here until he leaves office, but I’m not too sure about that," he said jokingly. "One thing is for sure, when it is time for me to step down, this department will be in good hands. There’s some good people behind me that would make excellent chiefs."