Jun. 22—TUPELO — The recent addition of two police departments and the return of a sheriff's office has bolstered the North Mississippi Narcotics Unit's membership to 12 law enforcement agencies.
The Baldwyn and Saltillo police departments recently joined the agency for the first time. The Monroe County Sheriff's Office rejoined after a roughly seven-year hiatus.
"Monroe County was in the unit for a long time but decided to get out of it under the former sheriff," said NMNU commander Bruce Dodson. "Current Sheriff Kevin Crook wanted to get back in. Since we had a lot of new agents, we decided to have an official swearing in ceremony."
Circuit Court Judge Kelly Mims swore in both the new and the existing agents on Wednesday to give all 20 agents full investigative and arrest powers within the in a five-county area.
The narcotics unit is a way for agencies to pool their resources. Each law enforcement agency pays the salary of and supplies a full-time officer. It is especially beneficial for smaller agencies who would have a hard time dedicating an officer to just narcotics.
"We share information about criminals and investigations. We combine manpower and intelligence," Dodson said. "Instead of just one agent working a case in Okolona, it is actually 20 agents working. Since the agents work out of the same office, they cross reference cases and know when someone commits a crime in another county."
By the adjoining counties and agencies joining forces, it prevents criminals from running across county lines to safety.
After spending two decades with the Tupelo Police Department, Daniel McKinney saw the benefit of the unit. When he was appointed Saltillo Police Chief about a year ago, he started working to have his new department join.
"We are fortunate that we can put a guy into the unit," McKinney said. "It gives us more manpower and supplies, but the additional resources is the main thing."
If an officer makes a routine traffic stop and discovers drugs, they can call the unit. A certified narcotics agent will then arrive on scene and take over that side of the investigation. The agent will also go testify in court, freeing up the original officer or deputy to remain on the job patrolling their territory.
Dodson noted that the unit is also beneficial to small police departments who don't have the manpower or resources to formally join. He said the smaller department can still call for assistance, and an agent can work the case through the sheriff's office.
The NMNU was formed more than 25 years ago with Tupelo Police Department as the host agency. It has grown to include the Amory, Baldwyn, Booneville, Fulton, Okolona and Saltillo police departments and the sheriff's offices from Chickasaw, Itawamba, Lee, Monroe and Prentiss counties.