Chief Justice Edwin L. Pittman addresses MBN anniversary

June 28, 2001

Supreme Court Chief Justice Edwin L. Pittman on Wednesday praised Mississippi Bureau of Narcotics agents for their efforts protecting communities from the drug trade.

Pittman, keynote speaker at the agency's 30th year anniversary celebration, spoke Wednesday to a gathering of MBN agents, former agents, other law enforcement officers and public officials at the Jim Buck Ross Agriculture and Forestry Museum in Jackson.

Pittman noted that the nature of undercover investigations does not permit agents to receive public credit for some of their law enforcement work.

"The fact of the matter is you have the toughest and the dirtiest job of any public official," Pittman said. "May I, on behalf of two million, eight hundred thousand citizens, thank you for the good work you do."

"Save for your good work, we would be absolutely and totally inundated with drugs and we would be daily under the threat of drug dealers," Pittman said. "Your dedication, your determination, your direction, your drive, make a difference."

Pittman also said drug enforcement agents' starting pay of a little more than $23,900 a year is out of line with the risks and dangers they face.

"If we are going to ask them to risk their lives, if we are going to ask them to clean up our communities, we ought to be fair to them," Pittman said.

Pittman praised Bureau of Narcotics Director Don Strange's leadership, including his implementation of a drug strategy and his efforts to restructure the agency while promoting from within the ranks.

"I like the idea that somebody is planning to defeat the criminal element in our society," Pittman said.

Pittman noted that about 85 percent of Mississippi criminal convictions are affirmed on appeal. He cautioned agents to abide by the requirements of the Constitution, even if it makes the work harder, to avoid prospects of reversal.

"Your efforts in applying the laws within the Constitution make all of us safer in our communities," Pittman said.

Pittman, a former state senator from Hattiesburg, supported legislation that created the Bureau of Drug Enforcement, the forerunner of the Mississippi Bureau of Narcotics, in 1971.

Secretary of State Eric Clark presented Strange with a copy of the Senate bill that created the agency. The measure won final approval of the Legislature April 1, 1971, and was signed by Gov. John Bell Williams April 16, 1971.

Pittman said the legislation met with opposition, but that history has proved the agency's worth.

Looking back, Pittman said, "In my wildest imagination I never thought that drugs were going to be the monumental problem that they are all across this state, in the small communities, in the rural counties."

For more information, contact court Public Information Officer Beverly Pettigrew Kraft at 601-354-7452.