Mississippi cops may be put to work as debt collectors for water bills

Members of the Jackson City Council are exploring a plan to have local police follow up on unpaid utility bills in exchange for a cut of the funds collected.

Jackson, the largest city in the Magnolia State, currently has some $20 million in outstanding water bills from both commercial and residential service. As reported by WAPT, one city lawmaker wants to tap the Jackson Police Department to collect.

“I think if the Police Department shows up to people’s doors to pay their water bills, my guess is the compliance rate will go way up,” said Councilman Ashby Foote.

Foote anticipates the police would get a 10 to 15 percent portion of the money collected by the department as an incentive to detail officers to the tasking.

However, the bodies may not be there to spare.

Earlier this week Jackson Police Chief Lee Vance told the Jackson Free Press his department is running short but has no funding for a new recruit class and is facing a budget some $2 million less than last year’s. He explained the agency has 32 police officer vacancies and 20 open civilian positions and is struggling to retain employees.

Overall Jackson is facing financial troubles and in an effort to keep the city running Mayor Tony Yarber last week proposed a series of austerity measures to include furloughs of many city workers, a hiring freeze, a moratorium on new vehicle purchases and higher city fees.

Council President Melvin Priester supports Foote’s utility bill collection proposal.