Controversial mayor accused of hurting police by promoting bodyguards

Published 4:27 pm Wednesday, October 10, 2007

A Jackson police detective says Mayor Frank Melton promoted two bodyguards to powerful positions in what amounts to the “attempted systematic destruction” of the state’s largest municipal police department.

Melton, a controversial former television executive, has long been criticized for micromanaging the police force. Now the first-term mayor is under fire for appointing one of his bodyguards, Michael Recio, to the position of assistant chief. Melton apparently did not consult Police Chief Shirlene Anderson before making the change last week.

Melton prompted his other bodyguard, Marcus Wright, to the position of sergeant.

Sign up for our daily email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

On Tuesday, more than a dozen current officers held a press conference to denounce the promotions.

Detective Juan Cloy, who is president of the police officers’ union and a 13-year veteran, said the Melton promotions were equivalent to “attempted systematic destruction of JPD.”

“We can no longer stand by and witness the mayor’s ridiculous antics and total disregard for our profession,” he said.

The group marched into City Hall Tuesday to express their frustration, but Melton was not there.

Melton said the disgruntled officers could leave if they were not happy.

“Their job is to protect and serve. If they’re not going to do that because they aren’t happy, then I’m willing to replace them,” Melton said. “I can replace them with the new class that comes up next month. I’m not going to submit to their tactics.”

Melton said Recio is qualified to be assistant chief because “he’s been by my side for three years. He knows how I operate and what’s in my heart and how I’m trying to change the community.”

“I’m looking for performance. The crime rate will be one issue,” Melton said. “The main thing I’m going to look at is how fast the people are receiving service.” Melton could not be reached for comment.

Recio and Wright are the same bodyguards who were indicted, but later acquitted, on several felony charges. Melton and the bodyguards were accused of using sledgehammers to destroy a duplex the mayor considered a crack house. They were cleared of the charges by a jury in April.

Recio has been on the police force about 15 years.

Melton’s spokesman, Tryone Lewis, who is also a police officer, said that Melton “has every authority” to make promotions within the department.

Some members of the city council appeared concerned Monday while questioning the police chief, who has often been criticized for an alleged reluctance to stand up to the mayor.

“My impression is that you were not a part of these new assignments, nor did you really know about them,” Councilwoman Margaret Barrett-Simon said to the chief. “And that troubles me greatly. Did you know about these appointments, that they were going to be made?”

Anderson told the city council that the mayor made the promotions, though she was informed of them.

“The mayor is the mayor,” Anderson said. “And the mayor made the appointments. The mayor and I don’t all the time agree on everything. He did, you know … inform us.”