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franklin county times

Candidates: Leave decisions to MPD

By By Ben Alexander/The Meridian Star
Feb. 16, 2001
Mayor John Robert Smith needs to leave law enforcement decisions to the professionals and not intervene in police matters, two mayoral candidates said Thursday.
Mayoral hopefuls Wally Hudnall and Bill McBride say although technically the mayor may be the chief law enforcement officer in the city, making decisions about prosecutions and tactical situations shouldn't be handled by amateurs.
McBride, an independent candidate, said while the mayor may technically be the chief law enforcement officer that doesn't mean he needs to make direct decisions about sensitive police situations.
Hudnall said in order to run an effective police department, people in charge need to feel they have final decision making authority.
Smith has come under fire by some segments of the community since saying he made a decision not to prosecute a woman who filed a false rape report. Police Chief Gregg Lewis declined to comment on details of the situation.
Smith's office since then has given The Meridian Star a list of incidents during his two terms as mayor in which he made other decisions determining when certain individuals would be prosecuted and when certain individuals wouldn't be prosecuted. The list even included a situation in which Smith was at the scene of three hostage situations, giving what he described as "moral" support and his approval for certain police maneuvers at the scene.
Smith told The Star he was also involved in decision-making when the police have a "shoot or don't shoot" situation.
While Hudnall said he disagreed with Smith's interventions in sensitive tactical police situations such as hostage situations, he understands the mayor's intention to not cause the woman any undue stress by prosecuting her.
According to McBride, the mayor shouldn't use his authority to determine who is prosecuted and who isn't.
Ben Alexander is a staff writer for The Meridian Star. E-mail him at balexander@themeridianstar.com.

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