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With Rankin Sheriff Under Fire, Undersheriff Resigns For Unclear Reasons

Rankin County Undersheriff Paul Holley
Rankin County Undersheriff Paul Holley, pictured, announced his resignation in an Oct. 3, 2023, statement. Photo courtesy Paul Holley Facebook

With calls mounting for Rankin County Sheriff Bryan Bailey to resign after six officers pleaded guilty to torturing two Black men, the undersheriff has announced his own resignation.

“During my 4 months as Undersheriff, I have implemented a number of changes that I believed were the best way to help the Sheriff’s Office improve its credibility with the community and to improve the ways in which we carry out our mission,” Undersheriff Paul Holley said in an Oct. 3 statement. “Sheriff Bailey deserves an Undersheriff that will continue that mission and shares his beliefs on how best to accomplish that.”

“I hope that the community will be patient with the men and women that wear the badge as they continue to serve all the citizens of Rankin County,” he added.

Holley did not explain why he was leaving the department.

His resignation comes two months after six white Rankin County officers pleaded guilty to federal and state charges for the sexual assault and torture of Michael Jenkins and Eddie Terrell Parker. Holley has not been accused of any involvement in violence against Mississippians.

The Rankin County Sheriff’s Department fired deputies Hunter Elward, Brett Mc’Alpin, Christian Dedmon, Daniel Opdyke and Jeffrey Middleton, Bailey announced on June 28. The Richland Police Department terminated officer Joshua Hartfield, Police Chief Nick McLendon said on July 3. The men’s sentencing is in November.

A lawsuit Jenkins’ and Parker’s lawyer filed against Rankin County, the sheriff and the six officers alleges that Rankin County and the sheriff created a culture that encourages misconduct.

“All the failures of Defendant Rankin County created an environment where both Sheriff Bailey and Elward, Mc’Alpin, Dedmon, and John Doe’s 1-3 operated with impunity, which is the proximate cause of the atrocities committed upon Jenkins and Parker in this case,” it alleges. “John Does 1-3” are now known as Opdyke, Middleton and Hartfield. The lawsuit does not cite Holley or accuse him of any wrongdoing.

Late last month, a report from The New York Times and Mississippi Today alleged that Bailey used a grand jury eight times to spy on his girlfriend, who was married, and a school employee. Neither publication published the documents their story was based on, however, and the Mississippi Free Press has not been able to independently verify the story.

The Rankin County NAACP and Democratic candidate for Mississippi attorney general Greta Kemp Martin have called on Bailey to resign as sheriff.

“We believe that the current administration had knowledge of what was happening with the Rankin County six,” Martin said at a Sept. 22 press conference.

Despite criticism, Bailey says he is not going anywhere.

“The only thing I’m guilty of on this incident right here is trusting grown men who swore an oath to do their job correctly,” the sheriff said in an Aug. 3 press conference. “I’m guilty of that, but the people of Rankin County elected me to do a good job during good times and bad times. I’m going to stay here. I’m not going to resign. I’m going to fix these problems and try to leave this (department) in better shape than I found it.”

Sheriff Bailey is seeking reelection for his fourth term and is running unopposed in the Nov. 7 general election.

The Mississippi Free Press attempted to contact the sheriff’s office for comment but did not hear back by press time.

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