Gooch Is Appointed Sheriff
WATER VALLEY – Longtime lawman Jerimaine Gooch was sworn in as interim sheriff of Yalobusha County during a brief ceremony Thursday morning at the Water Valley courthouse. Gooch was appointed a day earlier with a unanimous vote by the Yalobusha County Board of Supervisors during a special-called meeting following the death of Sheriff Mark D. Fulco.
Gooch has been employed with the sheriff’s department since 2004, working as a deputy, investigator and most recently as chief deputy under Fulco. A lifelong resident of Water Valley, Gooch graduated from Water Valley High School. He graduated from Mississippi Delta Law Enforcement Training Academy in 2005 and has received many hours of additional training to help him better serve the citizens of the county.
Speaking in last Wednesday’s meeting, Board President Cayce Washington said the decision to appoint the next sheriff wasn’t taken lightly. Washington said supervisors had met with Gooch prior to the appointment to discuss the responsibilities of the department. He noted that supervisors recognized Gooch’s service to the county as well as his experience.
“He is very knowledgeable of the criminal element that already exists in the county. He is already working with existing law enforcement officers in the Water Valley, Coffeeville and Oakland communities. He is very knowledgeable of the underlying problems that only law enforcement know a lot about. He has a good rapport in the community,” Washington explained.
Washington also acknowledged the challenges Gooch will face includes managing a tight budget, just as his predecessors.
“In a county our size, we just don’t have a ton of money for law enforcement,” the board president continued. “Not the kind that would probably be necessary,” he emphasized.
The budget has long been one of the difficult challenges for the county’s top law enforcement officer and overages have not been uncommon as the fiscal year comes to the end each September. Washington’s comments came as county officials are working to finalize the upcoming budget.
Earlier Budget Meeting
Just two and a half weeks before Gooch was sworn in, deputy Ralph Horton shared budget requests from the former sheriff in the August 2 supervisor meeting. It was the same morning that Fulco had been admitted to the Panola Medical Center in Batesville.
“The sheriff sends his apologies, he has been under the weather for the past few days,” Horton explained.
The request for more money for the sheriff’s department was the biggest in years, Fulco asked for funding to hire four additional full-time deputies along with raises for himself and existing deputies – a pitch for almost a quarter million dollars.
Horton explained that there are currently four full-time road deputies, along with the chief deputy and sheriff, and part-timers covering 495 square miles in the county. He explained the small force had answered 1,369 calls for service during a three month period from May to July.
“A lot of the crime we have in Yalobusha County, assaults, domestic violence and disturbance calls are time consuming,” Horton explained.
“A suicide call alone, like one in July, tied up the deputies on duty for several hours,” Horton told supervisors.
Horton added that every deputy in the county was called in for a Sunday afternoon homicide at the Water Valley Board Landing back in June.
“During a search warrant in connection with that homicide two deputies had to leave the scene to go to a dog call, that lets you know how short-staffed we are,” Horton continued during the budget meeting. “It’s tough when deputies are focused on search warrants and looking for evidence, but you have to leave and drive halfway across the county for a dog call. When you get back you have to refocus, there are things that can be missed. Basically every deputy is wearing five or six different hats.”
The statistics for the three-month period provided by Horton included 16 animal complaints, 15 civil standbys, 25 court proceedings, funeral escorts, 35 transports to court or for mental evaluations and 31 welfare checks.
“Hopefully the numbers presented show the need to bring on four more full-time deputies to cover the calls,” Horton continued. He also noted that the sheriff’s department currently does not have deputies out on patrol after 2 a.m. Instead, a deputy is on call and responds from their residence when dispatched.
Next Horton shared a long list of donated items Fulco received for his department. The list included 3,000 rounds from Winchester valued at $600, 10 tasers donated by the Lafayette County Sheriff’s Department valued at $8,000, 20 bullet-proof vests donated by the DeSoto County Sheriff’s Department valued at $4,000, computers valued at $30,000, bar lights, sirens and accessories valued at $38,800, vehicles valued at $69,000, training equipment valued at $690, donations from the VFW Post 4100 valued at $1,620 and miscellaneous items valued at $787. Horton also said the department received a $6,186 donation from Gray’s Election Equipment and a $5,000 grant from PC Pipeline.
“All of these items have been donated to the department at no cost to the county. We are continuing to receive different grants and donations to better the department,” Horton noted.
Supervisors took the budget request under advisement. During budget work later that afternoon in the August 2 meeting, a decision was made to fund a $100 per month pay raise for all county employees. The request for funding for additional deputies was not funded.