Oktibbeha promotions make history

By: 
Faith Lifer
Staff Writer

Five public servants in the Oktibbeha County Sheriff’s Office were promoted Tuesday, and two of the promotions made history.

Newly ranked Captain of Operations Brett Watson will be OCSO ’s first captain and newly ranked Lt. William Ford will be OCSO ’s first black lieutenant. The five promoted were pinned with their new ranks Tuesday, and their positions will officially begin Oct. 22. In addition to Watson and Ford’s new rankings, OCSO Lt. Jon Davis, OCSO Sgt. First Class Scott Helms and OCSO Sgt. First Class Darrell Holley were given their new rankings Tuesday.

Watson said he was proud of the men promoted, and the promotions were well-deserved.

“I’m proud across the board,” Watson said.

Not only was Watson the first to receive the ranking of captain in the OCSO, but his new operational role will also be a first. Watson said part of the reason for the changes was a need based on departmental and county growth.

“There is so much more administratively that goes on nowadays than went on even 10 years ago,” Watson said.

Watson said the growth has turned what used to be a one-man job into a three-man job.

“It’s to the point where you’ve got to have people doing pretty specific things,” Watson said. “And I don’t foresee that changing very much.”

One example of change in the OSCO over the past 10 years was the implementation of body cameras.

“Which on its face doesn’t seem like a lot, but there are a lot of administrative duties that go along with that,” Watson said. “It’s not just putting them on. There’s somebody who has to look after the system, somebody who has to be there and be available to pull those videos when they’re needed.”

Another reflection of the growth is shown in departmental staff.

“We’ve added more people on patrol,” Watson said. “Our shifts used to be quite small. When I first started in the sheriff’s department (in 1995), we didn’t even run 24-hour shifts.”

Yet, the monthly call volume recently peaked to over 1,000 calls, which was another first for the county. Watson said 1,000 calls is a large threshold for the sheriff’s office, which only has six patrolmen at a time. During the day there are also five investigators working at a time. As of Friday, Watson said the investigations division had 436 felony cases, but he expects it to reach closer to 600 cases by January.

“So you’re looking at five guys taking over 100 felonies apiece per year,” Watson said. “That has grown exponentially.”

Watson said the department’s growth is a reflection of growth worldwide.

“There’s so much going on today, not just in our community, but worldwide, than there was 10 years ago,” Watson said. “I think this just represents that step up in growth to a level that we haven’t had to have before now that is just becoming necessary.”

Watson also acknowledged the county’s population growth.

“The population in Oktibbeha County is growing a lot,” Watson said.

Watson said Mississippi State University contributes to much of that growth, but he also thinks people come to Oktibbeha County because they believe it’s a safe place to live.

“I think that we as a law enforcement community have done a fairly good job over the years of working together to keep the community in check,” Watson said. “I think we’re known as a fairly safe county overall, a safe city to live in and I think that does fuel some population growth."

"I think the growth is driven by a whole bunch of different factors,” Watson concluded. “But the growth is there and it’s gotta be responded to.”

NEW ROLES

As the captain of operations, Watson will oversee the operations of the investigations division, the patrol division and the necessary court proceedings.

“It’s a different job than I’ve ever had,” Watson said. “My role now will include, not only supervising the investigations division as a whole but supervising the patrol division and supervising the court division as well.”

Watson said he feels fortunate and is excited to learn his new roles.

“There are some components of this job that even in my experience, I haven’t been exposed to yet, so I'm looking forward to that— trying something new,” Watson said. “I want to make sure these guys have what they need to do their job right.”

“And if something needs fixing, I want to be able to do it and make it better,” Watson added. “I like pushing the envelope to see what we can make happen around here. I’m looking forward to learning that aspect and figuring out what works and what we can improve on.”

As the new lieutenant of the investigations division, Davis has taken on Watson’s former role.

“When the decision was made to replace me in this capacity, Jon Davis’ name was at the top of the list,” Watson said. “You want to talk about somebody who has developed into a talented investigator that really knows what he’s doing and what he’s supposed to get done— Jon Davis is that guy.”

“And that’s why he’s taking over my role,” Watson said.

Davis spent close to five years in the investigations division from 2012 to 2017 but went back to patrol due to a need in the patrol division in 2017. Davis said he’s excited to go back into investigations because he loves the challenge investigation presents.

“It’s always a challenge. Every case is different,” Davis said. “But it’s fun.”

Davis said he knew he loved investigations when he was given his first case by Watson.

“The first case Brett gave me in investigations, and I don’t know if this was a test case or what, but it was a stolen tractor,” Davis said. “I had nothing to go on, absolutely nothing other than talking to my victim.”

Yet, Davis found the tractor and the suspect was eventually convicted.

“I worked my tail off on that one,” Davis said. “That was the one thing that really got the juices flowing.”

“It’s the best feeling in the world, to be able to put the pieces of the puzzle together,” Davis said. “And that’s pretty much what the investigations division is— the patrol gives you a puzzle and you put it together.”

On the patrol side of things, Ford was promoted as the sheriff’s office's first black lieutenant, and he will be the lieutenant of Shift-A.

“I think you’re going to be hard pressed to find a more steady lieutenant for A-shift,” Watson said. “You never have to worry if William Ford is at work or not, because I promise you he’s at work. He’s about as steady a guy as you will ever find.”

Watson thinks Ford will be a good role model to the younger officers in the sheriff’s office. Ford said he’s ready to take on his new role.

“Man, it’s just been a long time coming. I am tickled to death to get this position,” Ford said. “I just thank God for allowing me to be around to have this opportunity, and I’d like to thank Sheriff Gladney for having the confidence in me to run A-shift.”

Ford said he was also excited to make history as OCSO’s first black lieutenant.

“It means a lot to me,” Ford said. “That’s something that can never be done over again. Nobody else can ever hold that position. I’ll always be the first black lieutenant.”

Helms and Holley were also promoted to their new sergeant first class rankings Tuesday. Helms said he is ready for his new role with more responsibilities.

“I’m starting 18 years, this year,” Helms said, “I’ve been here so long, it means a lot to me to be promoted. I’m excited to work with everybody in a new capacity to see how it goes.”

Overall, OCSO is ready for the changes the department and the county face.

“This is a learning experience for me and for us,” Watson said. “I think we’ll all find our center on what we’re supposed to be doing.”

“I think department-wide you would find everybody in agreement that if things are not changing, if they’re staying stagnant, then the department’s not growing and it’s not healthy,” Watson concluded. “I think you try to grow, you try to do better all the time, and that is what keeps a department growing—doing a better job for our county folks, which is what we’re here for.”

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