By Hope Harrington Oakes
Aberdeen Police Chief Henry Randle is helping to promote a petition to fight a change to the city’s charter that will make the position of police chief an appointed position, instead of an elected one. The City of Aberdeen was founded nearly 175 years ago and the police chief has been an elected position since its inception. The Aberdeen Board of Aldermen, in their Nov. 20 meeting, voted 3-2 to amend the city’s charter to exclude offensive language and change the selection process. Chief Henry Randle was against the amendment. He believes an elected position better ensures the rights of all citizens.
Even though the aldermen approved the changes, some believe the public should be given the opportunity to show how citizens feel about the amendments before the proposed changes are sent to Jackson for approval. During the meeting, Ward 2 Alderman Wilchie Clay made the motion to amend the changes with Ward 4 Alderman Dean Irvin seconding the motion. Then, Ward 5 Alderman John Allen voted in favor of the motion with Ward 1 Alderman Alonzo Sykes and Ward 3 Alderman Sammy Burroughs voting against it.
Chief Randle has stated that he believes Mayor Cecil Belle, along with the Aldermen did not institute the proper procedures of change by allowing the public to file official protests against the proposed amendments. According to Mississippi Statutes, Title 21. Municipalities Chapter 17, General Powers #21-17-9: “….the mayor and board of aldermen, city council, or municipal authority, by whatever name known, may prepare, in writing, the desired amendment or amendments and have the same published for three weeks in a legal newspaper published in the municipality, if there be one, and if none, then by posting for said time in at least three public places therein, after which the proposed amendment or amendments shall be submitted to the Governor, who shall submit the same to the Attorney General for his opinion.” A couple of days after the meeting, Chief Randle went to the office of City Attorney Dudley Williams to discuss the amendments. After a brief discussion, Williams yelled at Randle and told him to “get the hell out of my office!”
During his interview with The Packet, Chief Randle also made note that the Mayor and Aldermen were quick to call the local media after assault charges were filed against him previously by Aberdeen Police Officer Jason Franks (article found in The Packet #1005). When the charges were eventually dropped, he said no calls were made to the media informing them, even when Mr. Franks personally called the chief and apologized (Franks is still employed by the Aberdeen PD). Chief Randle said he feels the Mayor and the Board are taking advantage of any potentially negative publicity garnered by the alleged assault and charges to further their agenda on the proposed amendments to the city’s charter. Whether or not the charter is amended, it will not affect Aberdeen Chief of Police Henry Randle’s position as it wouldn’t apply to the position until the next election year of 2016.0