September 21, 2023

Independent evaluators: Brookhaven Police Department ‘in need of rebuilding’

Therese Apel

  • “There is probably not an issue in the BPD that needs more immediate attention than its Investigations Unit,” the report states.
  • Among other problems was an officer who was a convicted criminal and changed his name. He was released on the streets with a city-issue weapon.
  • The evidence technician appears to be an IT specialist, the report states.


An outside evaluator hired by the city of Brookhaven to evaluate the Brookhaven Police Department has released his findings, and the report is full of what some would call amateur and dangerous practices currently in place in that department.

The 32-page evaluation was done by a three-man panel made up of law enforcement veterans and researchers who assert that BPD needs to start over again from the ground up.

This comes just months after a grand jury wrote a scathing vote of no confidence against the Brookhaven Police Department, and a month after a national case was thrown out of court because a Brookhaven detective withheld evidence from both the prosecution and the defense.


Within the first paragraphs of the report, the evaluator states, “…the Brookhaven Police Department is a department in need of rebuilding. The department is going through what many departments of its size have experienced, and sometimes it becomes necessary to draw a line in the sand and basically start over. The Department’s effectiveness is being impeded by 1) a severe manpower shortage; 2) a confusing and inefficient command structure; 3) a lack of officer training; 4) competency issues in its Investigations unit; 5) and a lack of integration with the two prosecutors’ offices they work with.

These are all problems that can be fixed with time, a new set of well-defined policies and protocols, and a new vision for the Department. The purpose of the evaluation to follow is to identify the major problems that exist and to provide recommendations for enhancing the Department’s effectiveness and professionalism.”


Among other topics explored was the percieved inadequacy of the investigations division.

“There is probably not an issue in the BPD that needs more immediate attention than its Investigations Unit,” the report states.

“While conducting this review, I was able to observe the trial of two local White individuals who were charged with shooting at a Black FedEx driver for no legitimate reason. Shortly after the trial began a mistrial was declared when it was disclosed in the testimony of a BPD detective that he had withheld important and potentially exculpatory evidence not only from the Defense, but also from the District Attorney. This is a circumstance that should NEVER happen in an important criminal matter and this, along with the previously discussed Grand Jury report, points to several problems with BPD’s investigative function.”


Brookhaven is one of the last cities in Mississippi to maintain an elected chief, and while the board of Aldermen voted to go to an appointed chief, they later went back on that vote. While aldermen Andre Spiller, Don Underwood, and Jeff Hennington kept their votes firm to appoint the next police chief, aldermen Fletcher Grice, James McGee, Shannon Moore, and Charles Caston voted to maintain an elected chief.

The evaluators addressed the idea of an elected chief and how, in their opinion, it almost demands a city settle for a candidate who may or may not be a qualified, professional, and knowledgeable candidate.

“The biggest problem with an elected chief is that it greatly restricts the pool of candidates to those living in the City of Brookhaven. It precludes the Board of Aldermen from conducting a search for the best and most qualified candidates living elsewhere, even in another state. It also provides a great deal more accountability for the Chief, which in turn increases the accountability for those below him/her in the organizational structure. Moving to an appointed chief would certainly facilitate many of the changes needed in the Brookhaven Police Department and would allow the Board of Aldermen or a police committee within that Board to become more actively engaged with the Department.”


The report lays out the top-heavy command structure, pointing out that there are three captains, three lieutenants, four master sergeants, six sergeants, and six corporals. In comparison, there are just six patrolmen without rank.

“This is just the opposite from how it should be unless policy allows for promotions based on longevity and job performance. In reviewing the BPD policies, this does not appear to be the case. Rather, it appears that promotions are given at the discretion of the Chief without any specific criteria,” evaluators wrote.

From there, the evaluation documents the command structure, which is confusing at best.

“Because of the many ranking officers, the BPD has at least one captain supervising another
captain (patrol), and another captain who appears to have no other function but to supervise
a single M. Sgt. who heads up the investigative staff. This amounts to a waste of at least two
captain positions.

The captain who currently heads up the patrol division is also the school resource officer and
spends the majority of his time in that capacity. This is a waste of yet another command

The current evidence custodian is a non-sworn individual who appears to be primarily the
department’s IT person. It is also unclear who this person reports to, if anyone at all except
the Chief. Because of the sensitive and important nature of evidence, including the fact that
the evidence custodian may be required to testify at trial to issues relating to evidence
integrity, the evidence custodian should be a sworn police officer. They must have a full
understanding of how evidence such as blood and digital storage components must be
packaged and stored, as well as chain-of-custody issues.”

Evaluators pointed out an utter lack of consistency across the shifts as well. Brookhaven is currently functioning with four patrol squads that are supervised by four squad leaders who all have different ranks, the report says. One is a captain, one is a master sergeant, one is a lieutenant, and one is a corporal.


Brookhaven’s background check on prospective officers is dangerously lacking, the report claims.

“They appear only to check the applicant’s criminal history through NCIC and then run a Transunion TLO report. There is no background investigation and contrary to their own policies, there is no polygraph exam or psychological assessment. I discovered that officers have in the past been hired with a criminal background and subsequent name change; with a known addiction to prescription drugs; and even with a DUI in their past. This is unacceptable in law enforcement. Less than quality hires will inevitably result in short- term employment and constant turnover.”

The report was just released today, and officials say there will be discussions before any decisions are made based on the report.

Read the full document here.

September 2023 Evaluation o… by ThereseApel

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