City of Picayune approves ordinance to create Department of Public Safety

Published 8:26 pm Saturday, October 30, 2021

During the Oct. 19, meeting of the Picayune City Council, a motion was approved to adopt an ordinance that could create a new position and department within the city under which the fire and police departments would fall.

The agenda item read as follows, “consider request to adopt Ordinance No. 967 concerning the position of Commissioner of the Department of Public Safety for the City of Picayune.”

City Manager Freddy Drennan said the matter focused on the creation of a new position that would handle a lot of the training that city employees undergo. When asked if that concerns the Police Department and Fire Department, Drennan said it would entail all departments, including public works.

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“It would be for safety issues with any and all departments,” Drennan said. “(That person would) also evaluate ways to make sure that we are doing everything we can to keep employees safe out there.”

According to the ordinance published as a public notice in the Picayune Item on Oct. 27 of this year, the Department of Public Safety will be comprised of the Fire Department, Police Department and Training Division.

When asked where budgetary funds for the new department would come from since the budget has been established for the current fiscal year, Drennan said that the city’s administration will need to find money in the existing budget to create it, but that has not been done at this time.

In relation to a budget for this new position with the city, the ordinance states, “While the DPS’s budget may be divided between each Division or Department, and structured according to each Division or Department’s separate ‘Financial Plan’ all entities within the DPS shall ultimately operate from a single DPS budget. Therefore any funds from any Division or Department within the DPS may be ‘reassigned’ to other Divisions or Departments at any time, as determined necessary by the Commissioner and City Manager in order to accomplish the overall mission of the DPS.”

Drennan said that budgets are typically not set in stone once established and money gets moved around all the time.

“Because you don’t know what will happen throughout the year,” Drennan said.

He used Hurricane Ida as an example. All budgetary changes are brought before the Council for approval.

“I can’t just go get money because I want to, I have to present that to the Council,” Drennan said.

Concerning a rumor that the Police Chief and Fire Chief would report directly to the commissioner of this new department instead of Dreannan, he said that he has heard the same rumor, but said it is not true.

“This person will work with them,” Drennan said.

He added that a person to fill this position has not been named.

The Commissioner of the division will be “empowered to carry and employ firearms, and other weapons which may be determined by the Commissioner to be needed and necessary, in the performance of his/her duties,” the ordinance states.

This individual will be a full time employee, given a clothing and equipment allowance, be provided with a city vehicle and be entitled to state retirement under PERS, among all other full time benefits.

The ordinance also states, “all other ordinances concerning the previously independent positions Divisions or Departments, which are now part of the DPS, shall remain in effect until such time that they may be amended or replaced to better support the mission of the DPS and the City.”

If for some reason a department head in one of those departments now listed as being part of DPS resigns or is terminated, “…the Commissioner can immediately take command of that Division or Department or appoint an interim Head of that entity until a proper selection and appointment process can be conducted. The Commissioner may delegate any of his/her duties, or authority to the Head of any Division, Department or employee of the DPS at the Commissioner’s discretion.”

It also appears the Commissioner will have some authority in relation to the termination of city employees under his/her division.

“Any employee can be relieved of their duties or terminated by the Commissioner or by a Division or Department Head with the Commissioner’s approval and subject to the approval of the City Manager.”

Under the ordinance, the Commissioner also has the power to restructure any division or department at their discretion, and even create or dissolve any division or department within the DPS.

However, the Commissioner will not “delegate or transfer any power or authority away from the Mayor, City Council or City Manager…,” the ordinance states.