Sheriff department rankings

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Sheriff adds ranks in department, halts automatic pay for overtime

By Billy Davis

A rank structure remains in place at the Panola County Sheriff’s Department, though it now includes a major and a captain, and other changes among lieutenants.

Panola Sheriff Dennis Darby confirmed the changes last week, when The Panolian inquired about reports of changes within the department.

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Darby said longtime sheriff’s investigator Barry Thompson has been named major, making him third in command behind Darby and Chief Deputy Chris Franklin.

Thompson, who reports to Franklin, oversees operation of the jail and the narcotics task force according to an organizational chart prepared by the department.

Thompson has been employed at the sheriff’s department since 2003.

A second investigator, Albert Perkins, had been named captain within the department, where he is overseeing road deputies, dispatch, and school resource officers. He reports to Thompson.

Perkins has been employed at the sheriff’s department since 1998.

The new titles and responsibilities do not include pay raises, Darby said.

Former sheriff Otis Griffin implemented a rank structure at the department that included four lieutenants who oversaw patrol.

The new ranks implemented by Darby distribute responsibilities to four patrol lieutenants and also to a major and a captain. The new structure also names investigator Bill McGee a lieutenant over that unit.

The chart shows four sheriff’s lieutenants — Earl Burdette, Billy Lambert, Danny Beavers, and Edward Dickson — are each charged with a shift patrol that includes three other deputies. Sheriff’s deputy Gerald White, promoted by Griffin, also remains a lieutenant.

Panola’s road deputies work 12-hour shifts and Darby had planned to drop them to eight-hour shifts. But the new sheriff said he listened to the wishes of his deputies, who said they wanted to keep the 12-hour shifts.

Among other changes, Darby said he dropped automatic overtime pay for sheriff’s investigators in favor of paying them overtime for hours they actually worked.

The new sheriff said four sheriff’s investigators were paid 32 hours monthly above their regular salary, a practice he said dated back to late sheriff David Bryan.

The purpose of the extra pay is to acknowledge their job requires them to be on duty around the clock.

“That’s been tried by game and fish, and at the Highway Patrol, where it was debated a lot,” said Darby, who is a retired from the Mississippi Highway Patrol.  

“The bottom line was, we were told you get paid for the hours you work,” he said.

Darby acknowledged that investigators saw an immediate drop in pay when the extra hours were eliminated but pointed out that they will see some of that overtime — for hours they worked.

Eliminating the automatic overtime will save the department money during the fiscal year, Darby said, and the plan is to use the money saved to increase the starting pay of deputies.

Since he took office in January, Darby has said that salaries and pay raises are an ongoing issue at the sheriff’s department. He has promised to increase pay over time without increasing the department’s budget.

The sheriff also reported that longtime sheriff’s investigator Mark Whitten has said he plans to resign from the department after a 22-year career at the sheriff’s office.  

Griffin, the former sheriff, had moved Whitten to commander over the narcotics task force in December 2010 during other title changes within the department.

Darby said last week he is moving Whitten from the task force to assistant warden at the jail, which included a $12,000 cut in pay. His annual pay had been raised to $57,000 as head of the task force.

Jason Chrestman, who was moved from task force commander to jail warden in 2010, has been moved back to head the task force.

It was not clear Monday if Whitten has officially quit, since Darby announced to the Board of Supervisors that Chrestman and Whitten were swapping positions.