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FIRED!

Ousted Police Chief Joseph St. John acknowledges his supporters

The Columbus Chief of Police, Joseph St. John, has been fired.
In a 5-1 vote, with Councilman Mickens voting against the motion, the city council voted to terminate the chief, effective immediately.
The now former chief was suspended July 11th after he tested positive for alcohol, violating the city’s “zero tolerance” policy. St. John was tested after he failed to show for an Civil Service hearing of two officers, citing an unknown illness as the reason for his lack of attendance. He was then picked up from his home and taken to Baptist Memorial Hospital Golden Triangle where he was tested for alcohol. The city is claiming that by testing positive for alcohol during working hours, St. John clearly violated the policy.
In a closed executive session that lasted nearly three hours, Mayor Robert Smith and council members heard from St. John and his attorney David Owen as to why the chief should remain as an employee of the city. [During this time, Packet Editor Colin Krieger was called into the closed session. Krieger first broke the story of chief’s failed alcohol test in Packet issue 939. Krieger was asked to divulge the specific source of the information contained in that story. Krieger declined. SF] However, before going into the closed session, the council heard from nearly two dozen community members who voiced their support for “our friend Joe”.
Over two hundred supports gathered at Tuesday night’s meeting with most donning shirts that proclaimed “Citizens for Chief St. John”. Once inside the standing room only municipal court room St. John supporters stood to their feet and applauded, waving signs and banners when the chief entered the room. As supporters took to the podium one by one to voice their support, the enthusiastic crowd began to gain momentum with some even going so far as to seemingly threaten council members. St. John supporter Brenda Waldrop told the board members “If you fire Chief Joe St John, tomorrow without a doubt, I will do anything possible to get you all drug alcohol tested!”
Another supporter, Randy Hood then addressed the council saying “Don’t make it a black thing. Don’t make it a white thing. Make it a right thing. And Mr. Mayor didn’t you used to own a liquor store?”
All of the gathered well wishers seemed to acknowledge the fact that St. John did in fact fail an alcohol test but according to one supporter “You don’t destroy someone’s career over a mistake.”
However, this incident is not the first time the former chief has reportedly had troubles with alcohol. St. John took an unexpected two week long leave of absence in December of 2008 to allegedly attend rehab for an alcohol addiction. According to sources familiar with the situation, upon his return back to work St. John entered into an agreement with the city to randomly submit to alcohol screenings. However, according to those sources, there was not a date on the signed agreement. Mississippi law states that an agreement entered into without a specified end date is null and void after a one year period meaning that an agreement entered into in December of 2008 would be nullified in June of 2011. However, the city is not stating the agreement as the reason for St. John’s testing but rather citing the city’s “zero tolerance” policy.
After the announcement was made of the decision to terminate him, St. John supporters yelled out at the councilman saying “We’ll vote you out!” and “Wait until election day!” Before coming to the conclusion to fire St. John, the council offered the former chief 20 days pay if he would resign and retire early. St. John declined the offer. Selvain McQueen will be the interim chief while the council conducts a “national search” for a new chief.

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18 comments

  1. I can’t really make the comments I want to, unlike the packet that can and does make untrue comments…………and stretches the untruths and truth so far its like a rubberband!!!!!

  2. My question would be, if he called in sick, wouldn’t that mean he wasn’t o duty? If he isn’t on duty and on his sick or vacation time, the city has no authority to violate his constitutional right by making him take an alcohol test. I also hope the city gets sued and all council including the mayor get voted out for invading his privacy on July 11. Citizens of Columbus, this here tells u that the mayor and council take it upon theirselves to dictate what u can do in ur personal life.

  3. Mike Cooper

    Elected officials are elected to represent the people. It is very clear to me the only one who fulfilled his responsibility in this case was Mr. Mickens. The rest of them paid “zero” attention to the citizens who addressed them directly; and, paid no attention to the sheer number who showed up to support Joe St.John. The “City Policy” states Zero tolerance for the illegal use of alcohol. i.e. driving under the influence. Joe was at home and to my knowledge it’s not yet illegal to drink in your home. In my opinion, the council is too uneducated to understand the illness. The council thinks the illness is just someone getting commode-hanging drunk and vomiting ones guts out. But, had Joe “missed” because of a diabetic seizure, he would still be employed. And, his illness is very similar to diabetes. And, by illness I mean once the first drink is consumed, there are no more “choices”…If you can drink one drink and stop, I hate you (not literally) maybe I envy you. You don’t have the illness. This is a result of the neurology of your brain and it is proven science. But, the bottom line is the council got it wrong, except Mr. Mickens, because we elected them to vote in the best interest of Columbus, MS. And all but one of them FAILED to do that. Five (5) of them did not vote in the best interest of Columbus, my city that I love so much. I hope we show those five councilman as well as the mayor for his abusive nature how it feels at the next election.

  4. Concerned

    I live downtown and constantly get to witness bar fights that go on at forget about it and the surrounding areas. I’ve seen some pretty intense things in the past and always call the police. Usually there are patrol cars around downtown on the weekend and they always circle around and check things out pretty quick. I figure better safe then sorry. Tonight, on a Saturday, there are no police cars to be found. I got lucky and saw a few guys get pretty rowdy, one took off his shirt and was acting like an idiot, so I called the police. To my knowledge, no one even came to check things out.

    It’s no secret that we’ve had a pretty rough year with the bars/people downtown. The police have done a great job keeping things under control up until recently. Does all of this have something to do with it?

  5. JohnnyPhillipMorris

    If “pot” were decriminalized, there’d be a lot less violence and the court docket wouldn’t be bursting at the seams.

    And if society feels it must have a “buzz” on to get happy, pot is the lesser of the two “evils.”

  6. JohnnyPhillipMorris

    Copper thieves busted!

    Who’ll get credit for organizing the “sting” that led to the bust?

  7. Ida Clair

    Mr. Cooper: I don’t agree with you regarding St.John being home drinking “on his own time”. There was a hearing going on in which he had been scheduled for some time to testify and uphold his charges against two police officers. While many folks (including commissioners, the accused officers, lawyers, witnesses, court recorders, city officials, family members, supporters, reporters, and miscellaneous others) sat in the police
    building trying to bring this hearing to an end, St. John made a choice to skip this important meeting and stay home and drink. I know about alcoholics. I was married to one. In order to keep from losing his family and his business, he CHOSE to go to AA in order to get sober and stay sober. Alcoholics can be quite arrogant, perhaps, as I have been told, to cover their insecurities. StJ had a responsibility to the citizens of Columbus to remain sober as he had contracted to do, after being given a second chance to remain in the position as police chief. If he could not be responsible for his choices, he should have “manned up” [to use one of StJ’s own expressions] and resigned. If he isn’t responsible for his behavior, I’d like to know who is? And some folks don’t get second chances. And as far as “all his supporters”…..those who voiced their desire to have him remain in his position, what percentage of the total population might that be? Definitely not the “silent majority”. Opinions…. we all have’em, don’t we??? Well….that’s mine.

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