- Associated Press - Friday, December 25, 2015

SOUTHAVEN, Miss. (AP) - For more than three decades Southaven citizens have looked to Police Chief Tom Long for protection.

But that’s about to change.

On Jan. 22, Long is retiring after 26 years as chief of the third-largest city in Mississippi and 38 years in law enforcement. He says it’s time for him to turn his attention to serving someone closer to home.

“With my dad passing in February, I want to spend more time with my mom,” Long said.

The Commercial Appeal reports (https://bit.ly/1YyPVe5) Long is leaving a department where he started as the first officer hired by the city. Now 61, Long worked his way up through the ranks and was appointed chief in 1989.

“It is rare that you ever see a city start a police department from scratch. Most law enforcement agencies have been around hundreds of years. It was very exciting because it was a chance to do everything right the first time. You didn’t have to inherit the mistakes of everybody else,” said Long.

Long was one of four officers on the force. That was in 1980 and he said Southaven was “wide open” with lounges dotting U.S. 51. With them, he said, came crime.

“We worked so hard because remember for so long, all the lounges and gambling places had never had law enforcement supervision,” he said. “I think the city fathers and the citizens had a vision that they wanted for their city and it didn’t include most of those things.”

Ken Winter, executive director of the Mississippi Association of Chiefs of Police, said Long is the longest-serving police chief in the state.

“On average, chief’s stay in that position for 10 years, but with turnovers, elections and new boards coming in they usually stay 3 to 5 years these days,” Winter said.

Mayor Darren Musselwhite attributes Long’s lengthy tenure to his professionalism and trustworthiness.

“Wikipedia and Google both called us and asked if they could use his picture for the word ‘leader,’” he said jokingly, “because he is the epitome of leadership.

“Tom Long is one of the greatest leaders our city has ever known.”

Long doesn’t take praise well.

He would rather talk about his department, which has 124 officers, or his wife, three adult children and his four grandchildren.

“I never wanted accolades. I never wanted anybody to notice me or do anything else. I just wanted the city’s police department to be a success,” Long said.

He added: “There are just so many great people that made that happen, and I was honored to be alongside them when they were accomplishing all those goals. It has been really fascinating. If there is a legacy, hopefully I left it a little better than I got it.”

There’s no word on who might replace him.

___

Information from: The Commercial Appeal, https://www.commercialappeal.com

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