Sheriff Lieutenants

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Panola County Deputy Gerald White was one of four shift lieutenants named by Sheriff Otis Griffin last Friday as a long awaited rank structure was put into place. Pinning on White’s lieutenant’s bar is his wife, Donna, who is also an employee of the sheriffs department. Three other patrol lieutenants were named as well as an investigative lieutenant. Please see related story and pictures. The Panolian photo by Rupert Howell

Sheriff names lieutenants in post-election juggling

By Rupert Howell

Newly elected Panola County Sheriff Otis Griffin last Friday put his administration in order selecting four patrol deputies as lieutenants, named department commanders and shifted some of the current staff in his command structure.

Griffin used the meeting not only to promote and commend, but also to admonish his new leadership team for mistakes of the past.

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While one was cited for admitting to job “burn out,” another was told not to spend so much time in the coffee shop.

“You can still stop by,” Griffin quipped, “but tell ‘em you’re workin’ and get it to go.”

None of those promoted escaped the jocular admonishment, but Griffin got his point across letting his new leaders and others in the department know that he had listened to complaints during recent elections and was going to do something about them.

The rank system was one of Griffin’s campaign points and an idea he said he wanted to implement as chief deputy under the late Shot Bright.

Griffin told the group that from the four patrol lieutenants named, two would be selected as captains next year. He also charged the new lieutenants to recommend sergeants to serve under them. Remaining patrol deputies will carry the rank of corporal.

“All we need to do is what we’re supposed to do,” Griffin told his staff and stated, “We’re depending on you all to make it happen for us–make this thing (department) really, really into something special.”

Barry Thompson was named lieutenant of investigations. The 12-year law enforcement veteran was hired by the late Sheriff David Bryan as investigator after serving with Sardis Police Department and Batesville PD as an investigator.

Griffin said Thompson had earned respect of peers throughout the state as well as prosecutors and judges.

“He is a credit to himself and Panola County sheriff’s office,” Griffin said.

Bill McGee, formerly with the task force, will assist Thompson with investigations Griffin also announced.

Lieutenant shift commanders include Gerald White, Earl Burdette, Billy Lambert and Edward Dickson.

Burdette is a 14-year law enforcement veteran serving the last 10 as deputy.

 Burdette worked with Sardis PD and served as Como chief of police for two years before becoming a Panola County deputy. He is also a sergeant with the 114 Military Police Company having accumulated 23 years of service.

Griffin cited Burdette’s “helping hand” assisting with the elderly and his ability of “catching the bad guy and collecting their stolen items,” in areas north of the Tallahatchie River.

With his new position, Burdette will be “… expected to catch bad guys all over the county,” Griffin quipped.

Dickson is a 15-year law enforcement veteran  who has most recently served as assistant jailer. He completed the law enforcement academy in 2006.

Griffin cited Dickson’s methodical problem-solving abilities and his ability to work with other officers.

Lambert is a 13-year veteran who served as Sardis police chief, was a sergeant with Batesville Police Department and served three years in a police training mission in Iraq and Kosovo.

Griffin cited Lambert’s demeanor is dealing with the public during stressful situations, and his character.

White has served with Panola County for 14 years and retired as a lieutenant from Memphis Fire Department with 28 years of service. White served as courtroom deputy for  six years.

Griffin noted his command decisions during critical situations during manhunts and missing person searches.

White’s wife, Donna, and Deputy Carlton Hayes will both serve in public relations positions according to Griffin who added that Rosa Wilson will lead the dispatcher unit.

Mark Whitten was moved from investigator to commander’s position of Panola County Drug Task Force.

Whitten was promoted to investigator by David Bryan in 1996 after serving as deputy under that sheriff since 1992.

He began his law enforcement work in 1992 as dispatcher for Batesville Police Department moving into patrol that same year. He worked for both Tunica and Sardis PDs prior to working with Panola SO.

Former Task Force Commander Jason Chrestman is being moved to assistant warden of the David M. Bryan Justice Complex.

Chrestman’s move parralels arrival at that facility of federal inmates.

Jail Administrator Bobby Meeks’s title will change to warden according to Griffin who said papers had been signed last week to close the deal on Panola housing federal inmates.