Hattiesburg, Mississippi – Hattiesburg Police Department welcomed three more officers into its ranks during a swearing-in ceremony hosted by Mayor Toby Barker on Thursday, April 4. Officers Tammy Shelbourn, Adam Woodard and Cinnamon Kizer-Hudson were all issued the oath by Barker and badges were pinned by family members.
“Over the last 21 months, thanks to the work of the City Council and the leadership of both Chief Parker and Assistant Chief Sealy, several new initiatives have been rolled out to strengthen our position when it comes to recruiting and retaining police officers,” said Barker. “We want our department to be more than a place to build experience; we want it to be somewhere you can build a career and a build a life.”
Both Shelbourn and Woodard come to the department with several years of experience, including time served at Petal Police Department and The University of Southern Mississippi Police Department. Kizer-Hudson comes to the department from DeKalb County Sheriff’s Office in Georgia with 10 years of experience.
“It’s always good when we can bring the caliber of officers like these to our department,” said Chief Parker. “Combined, they bring more than 25 years of experience to our ranks; and we’re proud to have them.”
At the ceremony, Barker was also joined by former Fire Chief George C. Harrington, former Public Safety Director Dempsey Lawler, Councilwoman Delgado and local delegation members Rep. Percy Watson, Rep. Missy McGee and Senator Billy Hudson to announce the cost of living adjustment for the city’s remaining 144 fire and police retirees that are under a dated retirement system – the Police and Fire Disability and Relief System.
Retirees under this system, which is often referred to as the 20-year police and fire plan, only receive 30% of their highest salary at the time they were employed. Once that cap is met, it doesn’t increase.
At the recommendation of Ward 1 Councilman Jeffrey George and approved unanimously by the Council as a whole in February, local and private legislation was requested to raise the cap from 30% to 32% based on a cost of living analysis. The last time a cap was raised was in 2009, and it took local and private legislation to that.
A bill was then drafted by Rep. McGee and was supported in the House and Senate, by all local delegation. With that support, the bill was passed and signed into law on Wednesday, April 3 by Governor Phil Bryant.
“This was the right thing to do,” said Barker. “Our police and fire retirees paved the way for many of the officers you see in this room and many of the firefighters and officers that are out protecting this city right now. While we have our eyes on the future, we also want to make sure we acknowledge the contributions and legacy left by those who came before us.”
The cost of living adjustment will begin paying out at the beginning of the 2020 Fiscal Year.