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BPD Chief: ‘We will continue doing our job’

Editor’s note: Recently, area law enforcement responded to an incident on Hwy. 51 involving an out-of-control vehicle. In response to media reports concerning the incident, BPD Chief Kenneth Collins wrote this column.

 

On Tuesday, Nov. 24, I was notified by Officer Bobby Hathorn of a situation with his daughter, Vivian. I was not in town at that moment and told him to just focus on his daughter right then.

Later, I met with the family (Wed.) and asked about his daughter, was she OK? She was fine. Bobby and Vivian’s mother, Joyce, were there. Joyce is my cousin.

I told them I’d check into it before making a statement — read the reports and interview my officers. Immediately after that — I didn’t know they’d already contacted television news media — a reporter pulled up and wanted a statement. I advised my secretary to tell her I would meet with her on Monday (Nov. 30) because I didn’t know what was going on myself and had to do an investigation.

During the investigation, I pulled radio traffic and saw where the father had called in over the police radio and he was hysterical and upset. In return, my officers became hysterical. They didn’t know or weren’t sure what they had. From me listening over and over to the radio traffic, it was clear to me on both sides there was a miscommunication. Some officers were thinking one thing and others were thinking something else.

At first, I tried to pull body cam footage and found none of the officers had their body cams turned on, including Officer Hathorn, so then I had to wait until all the reports were finished. After reading the reports and interviewing officers I realized they were confused about the whole situation. Some heard it clearly and some did not. Radio traffic can be hard to understand in some areas and situations.

Some knew it was an out-of-control vehicle, some didn’t. Some heard it was an irate woman, or someone fleeing Officer Hathorn from a traffic stop. So that is why Officer Lisa Jackson and other responding officers had their weapons drawn to clear the vehicle as they were trained.

I found no evidence of Vivian Hathorn being thrown on the ground. She was placed on the ground and handcuffed until the vehicle could be cleared. When Officer Hathorn arrived to find that his daughter Vivian had been placed on the ground and handcuffed at eight months pregnant, he was understandably upset.

I’m proud of my officers on the scene for keeping him out of trouble. I guess his daughter told him she had her gun or her boyfriend’s gun in the vehicle and he went to retrieve it. Officer Jackson told him he could not do that because it was against protocol to get involved in an investigation involving a family member.

Officer Jackson also kept Officer Hathorn from becoming involved in an argument or altercation with the owners of 51 Gun & Pawn. Detective Clint Earls spoke with the owners and determined they were amused at the number of people popping up to see what was going on with all the blue lights and did not have a problem with Hathorn.

I tried to handle this matter discreetly, because I have an officer involved with his child. I have kids and I love mine just as he loves his.

I met Tuesday with members of the NAACP for about an hour or so. I played the recording for them and I advised them that it was confusion in a stressful situation by all involved. They asked about making an apology.

It was a misunderstanding in communications and I regret the way the situation went down, but I will not apologize for my officers doing what they were trained to do in that situation. Some thought they were dealing with a vehicle fleeing from a traffic stop with a possibly suicidal lady.

The problem that I have is that everyone is quick to throw law enforcement under the bus. You add that a reporter and the family have teamed up before they even talked with me, and you have some people making statements against my officer without having all the facts, and I will not let anyone throw my officers, my department, my town and my community under the bus.

A reporter should be fair to both sides, getting all the facts first and let a court or people decide for themselves. When you have one come to my office with a pre-drawn conclusion about a situation and try to ambush me, and insinuating that I’m lying or trying to cover up something, it really bothers me.

What most people don’t know is there’s a lag time on the radio calls — ours is two seconds — so it’s very possible everyone heard something different, and everyone’s telling the truth.

Our job is to protect and serve this community because Brookhaven is a beautiful town. But you have glory hounds and thrill seekers trying to discredit us as a community and as a police department.

My father and Officer Hathorn’s father were real close friends. I know Bobby Hathorn. I know his family and his daughter’s mother is my cousin. Even if that wasn’t so, I wouldn’t let anyone be mistreated.

So we will continue doing our job.

When I first took over as chief, Officer Jackson and the Mississippi Bureau of Narcotics helped me clean this town up. So when some drug dealers, convicted felons and accused murderers are making complaints on her, I’ll side with my police officer every time. It’s easy for anyone to second-guess someone when they weren’t in that situation themselves.

We need the police and the community to always work together, but if y’all want a chief that will bend under pressure and not defend his town or his officers when they clearly were just trying to do their job, then you need to find somebody else, because I’m going to always be Kenneth Collins.

It’s not a color issue with me. It’s not a Democrat, Republican or Independent issue with me. It’s about right and wrong. I’m bending over backward to serve my people, my community, my town and my country.

 

Kenneth Collins is chief of the Brookhaven Police Department. You can reach him by calling 601-833-2424. Readers are invited to submit their opinions for publication.