/Police chief walks tall in Tchula

Police chief walks tall in Tchula

This is the weekly ‘Sip of Culture. It’s a partnership between Mississippi Today Magazine and The Sip Magazine. Visit The Sip’s website to see more stories like these and to subscribe to the ‘Sip. Kenneth Hampton’s reputation as a no-nonsense cop started just outside the Tchula city limits, on two-lane Highway 12. A motorist made a U-turn in order to get around his police checkpoint. Earl Anderson, the driver, led Hampton and his officers up the hill and through the hills east to town. They eventually stopped at a camp of deer in the woods. Hampton shot 12 rounds at Anderson’s car as he tried to run over officers. Hampton states that the only reason it isn’t 13 was because he ejected one round from his chamber while trying to run over officers. Anderson was charged with aggravated assault against a police officer. Hampton was cleared by the Mississippi Bureau of Investigation. Hampton, a novice, made his stand. Tchula was a poor town of 2,332 located at the Mississippi Delta’s edge. That was the moment that things started to change. Hampton’s bravado draws comparisons with Buford Pusser (the Tennessee lawman who was portrayed in the 1973 film Walking Tall). Pusser was famous for breaking into moonshine stills, and standing firm against the Dixie Mafia that ran them. Hampton has a “Buford stick”, which was gifted to him by a friend of his Facebook posts. He’s only had one chance to pay tribute to the man. Hampton laughed as he recalled an incident with the town’s open-container violators. “Some of the liquor containers were quite full. Hampton is used to dealing in difficult situations and people. In the early ’90s, he worked with his father Ollie Hampton at Hot City in Yazoo City. The future lawyer took over the business when the older Hampton wanted to retire in 1996. He says that he tried to imitate his father, as he was very popular. “I was trying not to be myself, but to imitate him,” he said. He joined the United States Marine Corps in 1999 to work in Humvee maintenance and trucks. He also trained to become a drill instructor, and worked in counterintelligence while overseas in countries like Japan. The Killing Man’s Son, The Birth of an Assassin, his account of a Marine sent to Manila, is loosely based upon his own experiences. After 14 years in Yazoo City, he returned and reopened the club. However, he quickly realized that he had made a mistake. He said, “After two months, I was sitting there and thought, ‘You know what? This isn’t me.'” Hampton rode his bike for two days while pondering his next move. “I discovered that I was an adrenaline addict, and it just wasn’t working for me.” Hampton returned home to apply for police officers in Jackson, Yazoo City, and Tchula. He used his G.I. to accept the job. He used his G.I. bill to pay for the training at the police academy and began patrolling the town of 1.4 miles under the command of Anthony Jones. Two months later, Jones was killed in a fiery accident on Highway 49 south of town. Jones and Hampton didn’t always agree. The chief advised Jones to reduce his tactics on more occasions — but there was mutual respect among the lawmen. Hampton still keeps Jones’ charred badge in a drawer on his desk. Hampton’s aggressive, no-holds barred law enforcement style, which he established with zeal when he became police chief, has become legendary feats of strength, cunning, and some that have been earned. His New Southern Justice Facebook page posts that highlight alleged criminals often have pictures and receive hundreds of likes. More than 24,000 people have liked the Tchula Police Department’s Facebook page. He said, “Your arrest was public information.” “Of course, your arrest is public information,” he said. This is how I eat. But, once the warrant has been signed, you are all yours. Hampton says he isn’t an angel and doesn’t pretend perfect in his social-media posts. He understands the reasons for mistrust in some police officers because of his past. In his youth, a nightclub officer tried to extort a bribe. A Yazoo City unmarked police cruiser took him to Little Yazoo. It is located seven miles south from the city limits. Hampton said that the police received information about a Ford Mustang driver bringing drugs into the city. He thought the officer was out of his control. He was still reminiscing about his previous experience and decided to accelerate his Mustang Grande’s accelerator towards the nearest shopping center. At least there he would be visible from potential witnesses. He said, “It seemed like everyone that was in a cop car was coming out there.” They were all on my side of the highway. They were playing with each other and doing all kinds of things. “I slowed down to turn and one officer decides to shoot past [me], slow down, and slam the brakes. Hampton said that the hood of his Mustang was damaged in the crash but that charges were dropped because the officers tried to stop outside of the city limits, and made subsequent errors. Hampton still enjoys a good chase. He tracked down one suspect in his investigation into Clarence Blue’s death, which was officially ruled to be a heart attack but that was preceded with attacks by multiple attackers. He prefers foot chases. He said, “I’m 43-0 walking on foot.” It hurts sometimes but I can’t give up. Sometimes I try to be creative. I have thrown handcuffs at people and picked up rocks. Hampton believes that whatever it takes to make it work, so long as it’s legal, I’ll do it.” Hampton hopes his tactics will help re-instill law and order in Tchula and create more opportunities and jobs for its citizens. He noted that Holmes County was one of the most poor counties in Mississippi. “If there is decent law enforcement, crime rates will drop and the area becomes a decent place for people to live.” He believes that companies and stores would be open to the idea of opening a store here. Since he became chief, he estimates that crime has fallen between 60-60 percent and 70%. Burglaries are mostly over. Hampton pointed out on a December day that drug activity had either declined or moved indoors. Hampton is looking forward to 2017 and addressing these challenges. Hampton was crossing Main Street to return to headquarters. With a freelance photographer, Hampton noticed a woman leaning out of an old SUV at the intersection of Front Street. She shouted at Hampton, “I want to’ be on camera!” before closing the door and crossing the Tchula Lake Bridge. Chief Hampton laughed and drove off. “She’ll be on camera soon enough.” “Walking Tall in Tchula” by Rex Jones (from MississippiStories.org) Support this work and start a recurring donation today in celebration of our Spring Member Drive to help us continue important work like this story. Our reporters give a human face to policy’s impact on everyday Mississippians by listening more closely and understanding their communities. To ensure that our work is aligned with the priorities and needs of Mississippians, we are listening to you. Click the button below to let us know what you think. Republish this Story You can republish our articles online or in print for free under a Creative Commons licence.