Sardis aldermen call special meeting to address resignation of Police Chief, assistant, others

Published 1:05 pm Friday, March 8, 2024

Officials in the Town of Sardis have called a special board meeting for 2 p.m. Friday after receiving a letter of resignation from Chief of Police Chris Franklin. Also resigning was the assistant chief and a department lieutenant, leaving the town with just two certified and full time officers to cover the population of about 1,750 citizens.

“I regret to inform you that as of March 8, 2024, I will be resigning from the Sardis Police Department. Due to the lack of funding, it has become impossible to safely staff the police department and keep the citizens safe. I wish you all the best. Thank you for letting me serve these last 4 years,” read the letter that Franklin submitted.

Contacted by phone, Franklin said he had no hard feelings for Mayor Richard McCarty or any board members, and had enjoyed his four and a half years at the department. “This is just about money. I can’t ask these officers to put their lives on the line for $17 an hour,” he said. “We thought the board would be able to increase the pay but that hasn’t happened.”

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Franklin, who was chief deputy in the Sheriff’s Office for eight years under former Sheriff Dennis Darby, was a part-time employee in Sardis because is a retiree from the Mississippi Public Employees Retirement System and may only work part-time in that position.

Panola County Sheriff Shane Phelps said he learned about the resignations this morning when deputies began texting and asking if they should be covering Sardis until additional law enforcement can be put into place there.

“We are going to ensure the safety of the people of Sardis, no matter what,” Phelps said. “Sardis is a part of the county of course and we will call in part-timers and put people on standby. But, like I’ve been saying, if you call deputies in on their days off what does that do? It means overtime and there is no way around that.”

Sardis Alderman at Vice-Mayor Michael Price said the resignations were unfortunate but the board members had already been in contact with retired law enforcement officers in the area and had plans to fill the positions at this afternoon’s meeting, or at least by early next week.

Price said he and some other town officials have discussed pay increases for officers many times in recent months, and hope to be able to address the issue again before the 2024-25 budget building begins. 

“I want to increase pay where and when we can just like all the board members, and I think the officers know that we are working on it,” Price said. “Sardis may seem like a small town and most of the time it is, but on weekends with Panola Playhouse having shows and other activities our little town can get really busy. When you add that Rafters is about to be back open for the season, Sardis is not a small town on the weekend.”

Price added that he believes the police department might have room for improvement in some patrol areas, noting that just seven tickets were written by the police department in the month of February.

“We hate to lose any employees, but we think we have a good solution for the people of Sardis at the end of today’s meeting,” Price said.