Five applications for Police Chief – City Board expected to choose soon

Published 10:12 am Wednesday, January 24, 2024

Deadline for applications for the Chief of Police position in Batesville was Friday, Jan. 19, and the Mayor and Board of Aldermen have five applications to review. The board was expected to discuss the candidates at Wednesday’s meeting and may have some interviews this week.

Chief of Police Kerry Pittman, a veteran of the Batesville department, announced his resignation in late December, effective March 27. 

Aldermen said at the time of his resignation they did not intend to wait until the end of March to hire a new chief, and have not indicated what role Pittman will have in the department between the time a new chief is announced and his retirement date.

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Three of the five candidates for the position, which pays about $90,000 plus benefits, are local law enforcement officers and the others are from Mississippi.

They are:

Dennis Darby of Batesville, Juan Stephen Gray of Terry, Wesley Hawkins of Batesville, James Kevin Smith of Pope, and Christopher Wray of Mooreville.

Darby is a former Mississippi Highway Patrol officer and former Panola County sheriff. He ran against Sheriff Shane Phelps in the 2023 county election, and was beaten for the second time by Phelps.

Darby was the Constable for the southern district of Panola County until Jan. 2, when the newly-elected Constable Maurice Market took the post. Darby had been appointed Constable in 2018 following the untimely death of Raye Hawkins, who was killed in the line of duty. Darby completed Hawkins’ term and did not seek that office.

Gray currently serves as the Assistant Chief of Police in the Town of Terry, a municipality in Hinds County with about 1,000 residents.

Hawkins is a Captain in the Special Operations Division of BPD, and has been on staff for about 11 years. He also previously worked as a deputy in the Sheriff’s Office. He is the son of the late Raye Hawkins.

Smith is a veteran officer and investigator and has worked in the Memphis Police Dept. and the Panola County Sheriff’s Office in the past. He is currently an officer with the Oxford Police Dept., assigned to the downtown Square area.

Wray is currently employed by the Tupelo Police Dept. as a School Resource Officer, and has also served in the Oxford Police Dept.

Aldermen will meet Wednesday at 2 p.m., a day later than their usual Tuesday meeting due to road conditions.

The board does not have another regularly scheduled meeting in January. The next scheduled meeting will be Tuesday, Feb. 6.  Should the aldermen decide upon a candidate and wish to make the hire before the first Tuesday in February, a special meeting would be necessary.