TUPELO • A pair of suspensions at the Tupelo Police Department last week were handed down over violations of a body camera policy, but Mayor Jason Shelton does not anticipate any further disciplinary action related to last week’s detention of a prominent Black civic figure.
Shelton’s administration on Monday released body camera and car camera footage related last week’s police detention of Wesley Wells – an action which prompted Wells to publicly claim he’d been mistreated.
One officer – Dan Porch – was not wearing a body camera at all during the incident. Another – Roy Noe – turns the camera off during the incident.
Noe has claimed that he believed the camera was off and that he was turning it on, when it fact it was already on and he was turning it off, the mayor said.
Shelton also told local reporters on Monday that Porch and Noe were initially suspended without pay and then reinstated on Saturday.
A third officer – Blake Hudson – was wearing his body camera as required by TPD policy and captured much of the incident.
Officers Porch and Noe now have an attorney, Jason Herring, and released a statement Monday through him.
“We’ve had very positive meetings with Mayor Shelton and the city’s legal counsel, Mr. Logan,” Herring said in a written release. “Officer Noe and Officer Porch are thankful for the support of the community and fellow officers. They are glad to be back on the job serving the City of Tupelo.”
Herring had no comment to questions about whether the officers are considering legal action over their suspensions.
On Monday, the mayor repeatedly expressed disappointment in the failures to rigorously comply with the body camera policy and said the release of body camera footage was delayed by the need to determine the causes of these policy lapses.
“The purpose of the video cameras in the vehicles and as part of the officers’ uniform is to assist in the prosecution of cases in the criminal justice system, but also for the protection of both the officers and the subject of any investigation or police interaction,” Shelton said. “In the current situation, it would have been helpful to Mr. Wells, the officers involved, the police department, and especially our citizens and taxpayers if the complete audio and video of the interaction was immediately available.”
An internal investigation into the detention is nearly complete, but Shelton said he does not believe any additional disciplinary measures will be levied related to the actual conduct of the Wells detention.
Last week, City Hall announced the two suspensions without pay as well as a requirement that all three officers involved in the Wells detention undergo sensitivity and de-escalation training.
The mayor told press on Monday that individuals can judge the handling of the detention for themselves and that the sensitivity training was prompted by a failure to maintain adequate COVID-19 protocols.
“I thought it was as much of an issue of the mask as anything,” Shelton said. “I don’t think the officers were as sensitive to that as they should be.”