Jody Bradley

Jody Bradley, who will take over as Greenwood’s chief of police Dec. 2, speaks to the City Council on Tuesday.

Greenwood’s incoming police chief knows he’s going to have to win over the officers — and maybe the community itself — who might be skeptical of a top cop whose only direct experience in law enforcement lasted just six months a half-century ago.

“I will have to earn the respect of the staff. I know that,” said Jody Bradley. “But they’re going to help me do that. They will share their concerns, their ideas, their thoughts, their suggestions. We’re going to look at those things and see if we can make those things work.”

Bradley, 71, was hired this past week to replace Ray Moore, who is retiring for health reasons.

Bradley is scheduled to start the job Dec. 2.

He was recommended for the post by Mayor Carolyn McAdams, who worked with Bradley during his 14-month stint as warden at Delta Correctional Facility in the mid-2000s. Before she was first elected mayor in 2009, McAdams was the business manager at Greenwood’s former private prison, which was operated by Corrections Corporation of America, now known as CoreCivic. CCA is one of four private prison operators for which Bradley worked during a 25-year career in corrections.

Bradley said although his situation may be unusual for Greenwood, it is not unheard of for police commissioners in larger cities to come from a background other than law enforcement.

He said he is confident that with time, he will have the Police Department’s employees and the community in his corner. He said he faced a similar situation in Sayre, Oklahoma, when, after a riot, he had to replace a popular warden there who was also one of Bradley’s best friends.

“It took about a year, but after a year, I became their beloved warden, if you will,” Bradley said. “I have, if you will, a knack at helping people get better and put them at ease.”

The San Francisco native’s only experience as a police officer was the six months or so he spent right out of high school working for the Houston, Texas, Police Department.  His wife at the time, fearful of the mortal dangers police officers can face, gave him an ultimatum, he said: “‘You either get out of police or you get out of this marriage.’”

• • •

Bradley’s decision to come out of retirement for a second time and accept heading up Greenwood’s Police Department started with conversations that began with McAdams after Moore in October 2018 suffered a major stroke, which kept him away for 2½ months. At the time, Bradley was gearing up for a run for sheriff of Wilkinson County. The initial idea was for him to come and do some consulting work with the Greenwood department, which has been dealing with morale problems and a years-long officer shortage. Currently, the department has 71 employees overall and is short about 16 officers, although Moore said there are four or five recruits in the pipeline.

After Bradley finished second in the sheriff’s race earlier this month and Moore had determined his health would not allow him to continue as chief, McAdams approached Bradley about taking the job.

The City Council approved her recommendation unanimously.

One of the seven council members to vote for the hire, Ward 1’s Johnny Jennings, said he was impressed  by the management skills of Bradley, with whom he and other members of the council were able to talk at length before his nomination came up for a vote. Jennings also said he has long heard that every fourth cycle when a police chief has to be hired, it is good to bring someone in from the outside so as to break up any buddy system that might have developed.

Jennings said he mostly deferred to McAdams’ judgment on Bradley, but it didn’t bother the councilman that Bradley has spent most of his career trying to rehabilitate criminals rather than catch them.

“He knows the product,” Jennings said.

Bradley is required to become a certified law enforcement officer within one year of his start date as police chief. He plans to begin in May the 12-week training program at the Mississippi Law Enforcement Officers’ Training Academy. In addition to learning basic police skills, Bradley will be required to pass a physical fitness test. Based on his age and gender, he will have to complete an agility run within 20 minutes, 5 seconds; do 26 pushups; and run 1.5 miles within 16:30.

Jennings said Bradley’s age was not a concern to him.

“I’m 72 years old,” said Jennings. “I know people at 85 years old who can probably do it. Age is not a fence around life. You can’t write somebody off just because they’re 71.”

When Bradley was asked how long he expects to stay out of retirement this time, he said, “My goal is to work till I’m 80.”

• • •

Concerns have been raised as well about a highly critical internal audit at the last prison where Bradley worked, Wilkinson County Correctional Facility in Woodville.

The 83-page report was prepared for the prison’s private operator,  Management & Training Corp., or MTC, by an outside consultant. It claimed that Bradley coped with a severe shortage of prison guards by turning to gang leaders to keep inmates under control in the 950-bed maximum-security prison.  

The audit was obtained by The Marshall Project, a nonprofit news organization that covers the criminal justice system.

The audit said that Bradley acknowledged telling gang leaders to “control their men” or risk having their unit put on lockdown, in which inmates are confined to their cells. And, according to the audit, Bradley said this controversial approach had the blessing of the Mississippi Department of Corrections. “It ain’t right, but it’s the truth,” Bradley is quoted as saying to the auditor.

Both MDOC and Bradley have denied the accusation.

Bradley said in an interview Thursday that the auditor “definitely got it wrong. Yes, there’re gang members, and yes, we dealt with them. But we never ever put an inmate in charge of another inmate.”

He said an estimated 80% of the inmates in Woodville are gang members, serving an average sentence of 25 to 30 years. “You’re dealing with a lot of knuckleheads,” he said.

He said that staff at the prison would be instructed to talk with inmates when they got word there was trouble brewing to try to keep it from occurring. Such “intervention” is an accepted technique in prison management, he said. “You’re deterring something that could happen.”

McAdams said she believes Bradley’s denial.

“I also know about prisons and the false allegations that are constantly being stirred up by the inmate population,” the mayor said in an email. “For one thing, MDOC always has a representative on site at every private prison that monitors the daily happenings. So this situation would have never been allowed.”

Bradley retired from MTC the month after the internal audit report was completed. He said there was no connection to its findings and his departure.

“I actually was planning retirement for two years,” he said.

• • •

Bradley expects to do a lot of listening when he comes on board in Greenwood next month. He started the process before his hire by riding on patrol for a couple of hours each with two of the city’s officers.

“There’s an old saying, ‘A cup of coffee sometimes at 2 in the morning, you learn a lot,’” he said.

He already has some ideas he expects to implement.

First, he said, he plans to develop a career path for every employee who wants to progress. “I’m going to help them get where they want to be.”

That would include, he said, hopefully identifying someone in the department whom Bradley could train to replace him when the time comes.

He also would like to better develop the existing field training officer program, in which seasoned officers work with newer officers to help bring them along.

He compares the job of police chief to putting together a football team, with him as the coach, directing, teaching and encouraging each member.

“They’ve got to see that I’m going to be there with them every day, that’s important; that I’m going to address their issues.

“And that does not mean always saying yes either, please understand. It means that you’re honest with people.”

Contact Tim Kalich at 581-7243 or tkalich@gwcommonwealth.com.

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