Barney Fife belongs on T.V., not Como

Barney Fife belongs on T.V., not Como

Comes now Earl Burdette, chief of police in Como, that great bastion of law and order in north Panola County.
The good chief is angry with the newspaper’s coverage of the killing in his humble hamlet on the 18th. Says we don’t have the facts all straight and paints his department in a bad light.
Good. Maybe next time when we call, Chief, you will have the courtesy to answer or return the call in a timely manner.
Or not. And, we will still gather the facts from others who were there and report them to our readers, per our unwritten contract with them and our advertisers. (To wit: We will swap you cash dollars for the latest local news, as best you can gather and report it.)
Here’s what happened. Fellow leaves Sardis shortly before 11 p.m. last Sunday, goes to a low-income housing complex in Como to pick-up his very young children, enters an apartment, and dies on the floor with several bullets in his back. State police eventually work the incident, and make no arrests (at least not for now).
As we trust the Highway Patrol’s investigation skills, it’s logical they are either waiting to make an arrest or have decided that the deceased was somewhat responsible for his own demise by invading another man’s castle – even if it’s a subsidized sub-let in Como.
Burdette, I think, is upset because the newspaper reported what several folks told us – it was mass hysteria up there that night, and Como Police were not in control of the crime scene, or the crowd that gathered and roamed about the unsecured scene, trampling evidence and interfering with the crucial first minutes of investigation in these type cases.
Chief Burdette may be a fan of the Barney Fife School of Law Enforcement, but I am not. I’ve seen such shenanigans before, and the community always loses when the police have a breakdown.
Poor Editor, mind you, does not blame the men and women of the Como Police Dept., as they were probably doing all they could to maintain control. Sources told me there were several hundred people at the scene, milling around, some of them liquored up and (quite naturally) drawn by the popping of caps and subsequent chaos.
It’s Burdette’s policies and procedures that come into question here. It’s no secret that the Chief loathes the High Sheriff, and is known to be uncooperative with Panola deputies. He doesn’t want Dennis Darby working his jurisdiction, some say, and will only seek the senior department’s assistance when there is no other choice.
Darby took the high road when I called him, saying his guys are willing to work with all the county police equally. On the night on the 18th, he said deputies responded immediately when they were finally called.
Problem is, we understand that Como Police did not call for help immediately. We also hear that Burdette himself has a general policy of not allowing his officers to contact the county law unless he approves it.
Back to the telephone. That’s precisely what Poor Editor wanted to know, Chief Burdette. If you would have returned the calls.
The newspaper calls Batesville Police Chief Jimmy McCloud and Sheriff Darby several times each week, and they always respond. Sometimes it’s a text saying they are tied up, but they always get back with us. Not because we’re special citizens, but because they understand that part of good policing is getting citizens the facts right the first time.
Neither of those guys necessarily like the phone calls, and we often have fairly intense conversations – Poor Editor pushing for details, while they try to say the most they can without messing up a case. It’s back and forth. It’s what we do. Everybody except the Como chief.
And while not cooperating with the local newspaper is his right, not cooperating with fellow lawmen is not. It jeopardizes the good citizens of our county. And, that’s what irks the newspaper.
We understand personality clashes. Not a big deal as long as folks put aside differences when there’s serious police business to attend. Citizens deserve the right to pillow their heads at night, confident our local heros are vigilantly keeping watch.
Let’s understand this, also. Poor Editor loves Como and thinks it’s a neat town. Of all the clubs and meetings attended in a week, the Como Rotary is about my favorite. Really fine folks and R.B. Armstrong caters the lunch. You can wear a set of tires out looking for better cooking than R.B.’s, this we all know.
I like the Main Street stores and restaurants there, and especially the hymns that peal from the Methodist Church’s bell tower at noon each day.
Como has way too much potential to lag behind the times with shoddy police work and personal vendettas. And, we certainly don’t cotton to being blessed out for our coverage of a young man’s loss of life Wild West style with his children close by.
Let’s hope this debacle proves to be a turning point for Como Police, and an example of why the chief’s relationship with the county boys needs to be repaired.
Let’s hope Chief Burdette makes sure this outrage doesn’t get repeated, and the newspaper will praise him when it doesn’t. He can police his town, and we’ll decide how to report the news.
After all, Chief Burdette, you are more of a paper server than a paper editor.

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