After his first month on the job, Lumberton Police Chief Carlus Page said earlier this week he has seen positive changes in the department and believes other people are seeing the upswing.
“Things are on track,” he said Monday after he took over the department on April 10. “We are making a lot of improvements already. A month in, we have had several big felony arrests.”
Two arrests that brought attention to the Lumberton force involved Christopher Cole, a suspected drug dealer in a sheriff’s vehicle and a local newborn who tested positive for methamphetamine.
“The case involving Christopher Cole was a multi-agency investigation, but that started here in Lumberton,” Page said. “The investigation we were doing on Mr. Cole had come to a head in our jurisdiction. We were the lead agency. I was able to get information to an MBN (Mississippi Bureau of Narcotics) agent I know, and he was able to take that information that I gave to him and run with it. It was able to come together. It was just good police work.”
Cole was accused of transporting 4.5 pounds of marijuana in a former Newton County Sheriff's Department vehicle. He was arrested in Purvis after an agent spotted the cruiser on I-59.
The Mississippi Bureau of Narcotics said 31 varieties of weed were found in the stolen vehicle and his Purvis home. The Lumberton and Purvis police departments, Lamar County Sheriff's Office and Mississippi Bureau of Narcotics worked together in the arrest.
In the other case, Ashley Nicole Barnett gave birth to a baby girl on April 11 that was taken to Forrest General Hospital for treatment, according to reports. During the treatment, tests revealed the baby had a large amount of methamphetamine in her system.
Barnett was arrested and charged with felony child abuse charges. The Mississippi Bureau of Narcotics, Federal Bureau of Investigation and U.S. Marshal’s Task Force brought about the arrest.
Page said working with the local and state law enforcement agencies has been beneficial.
“(Hattiesburg Police) Chief (Anthony) Parker has extended his hand to assist in any way that they can,” he said. “USM Police Department has expressed their appreciation for what we are trying to do. Lamar County, Purvis and Pearl County have been phenomenal. We are putting an effort together now where all of these agencies in the Lamar County area will be working together.”
In his introduction as the Lumberton chief a month ago, he said he and the Board of Aldermen are working toward hiring more officers.
“We are getting ready to hire a few people here, hopefully in the next week or so,” he said. “One thing is when we get done with the hiring process and everything goes well with them, we should have new officers on the force.”
Establishing a substation inside the Lumberton city limits that Page spoke about in April has been in use, but it is not completely open to the residents.
“The substation is already open for the officers,” Page said. “It is not a place for the public to come and meet with the officers. It’s basically another outlet for the officers to function on their beat. It’s basically another stop that they can go to. It is something that’s running; they have 24-hour access to the substation.”
The substation is located at 956 Myrick, sharing the space with the Pecan Ridge leasing office.
Also important for Page is portraying Lumberton in a good light after previous incidents. Page became police chief when Shane Flynt resigned after a video reportedly showed Flynt smoking marijuana received national attention.
“Public perception of the police department, I believe, is beginning slowly turn to a more positive one, not saying that everyone had a negative perception of the police department,” he said. “But, we are starting to do a lot of the right things consistently. I believe morale is starting to come up in the department and people are taking notice.
“I think we are right on track and we’re going to have a great department with a lot of great potential. We are still just starting to get the right pieces in the right places.”