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Sollie surrenders on county patrol

By By Marianne Todd/The Meridian Star
Jan. 31, 2001
Lauderdale County Sheriff Billy Sollie said Tuesday he will drop the heated and frequently debated subject of county patrolmen.
In a letter addressed to Jimmie Smith, president of the Lauderdale County board of supervisors, Sollie cited a stalemate that was distracting officials from other important issues.
Sollie declined to elaborate on the motive for writing the letter.
Lauderdale County is reported to be the only county in the state in which county patrolmen are still appointed by supervisors. Patrolmen carry guns and drive law enforcement-type vehicles with sirens and flashing lights, yet they are not considered law enforcement personnel.
Smith said he accepted Sollie's letter as his word, but was confused as to why the letter was presented to the media.
The issue of county patrolmen has been a long and heated debate between Sollie, who wants the patrolmen deputized and placed under his authority, and Smith, who wants the patrolmen to continue their road patrol duties for the county.
On Jan. 11, the Board of Minimum Standards and Training, the state board governing law enforcement certifications, voted to revoke the law enforcement certifications of Lauderdale County's five patrolmen.
The hearing was held at the request of Sollie, who argued county patrolmen do not fit the description of law enforcement officers since they have no arrest powers. Minimum standards board members agreed with Sollie, but their decision was overturned a few days later upon the advice of the board's attorney.
In his letter, Sollie said he may address the subject again at election time.
Smith said the issue belongs to Sollie.
Marianne Todd is a staff writer for The Meridian Star. E-mail her at mtodd@themeridianstar.com.