By Omarosa Manigault Newman
Sheriff Charles Jones spoke with the Clarksdale Advocate on his goal for public safety in the greater Coahoma County area and gave us insight on how he balances it all. Sheriff Jones was born in Quitman County, Mississippi, and at the age of 13 moved to Clarksdale, Mississippi, where he attended Clarksdale High School, Coahoma Agricultural High School, and Coahoma Community College.
“I began my law enforcement journey a few months before my twenty-first birthday. At the time, I worked multiple jobs to support my family and missed numerous significant events and holidays. I had an epiphany around the Fourth of July; I was about to turn 21 and realized I wanted to follow my true calling.”
“I called my brothers, James and Dale, who were both in law enforcement and had encouraged me to join them. My youngest brother is in law enforcement as well. I left my three jobs, including cutting hair and working in the receiving department at the local Walmart.”
Most prospective law enforcement officers’ trainees will participate in a range of physical fitness tests in addition to classroom instruction and training. Sheriff Jones received his Basic Law Enforcement Officers Training in Tupelo, Mississippi. He excelled in both the classroom and the physical fitness obstacles. “Since I’ve been athletic my entire life, the training came easily to me. Despite the rigor of the training, I actually found the whole experience enjoyable.
In his 29 years of service, he believes that integrity is one of the most important traits that law enforcement personnel should possess. Sheriff Jones shares that this is the key to strong ties in the community, his integrity, and his character. “You must always do your job the right way. If you have pride in what you do and deliver on your promises, then the respect will come. It is important to do what you say you are going to do.”
Sheriff Jones is aware that some people in the community may hold an unfavorable view of law enforcement. He has, however, committed to doing the hard work and putting in the effort to foster an inclusive environment.
“I like talking to people and helping people. When I became Sheriff, I wanted to put the power back in the hands of the people. The power of the Sheriff’s office centers on the community feeling safe and empowered. I wanted everyone to feel like their voice matters. From my viewpoint, everyone in this community is important to me. No one is greater or smaller. Everyone is someone to me.”
Sheriff Jones worked in a wide range of positions and departments throughout his career, including patrolman, investigator, gang unit, and SWAT Team member. He has received numerous awards, recognitions, and honors for his commitment to service. Congressman Bennie Thompson recognized him as one of the nation’s best leaders; his department was named Top Supporting Law Enforcement Agency of the Year in 2014.
One of his 29-year career highlights was working as a school resource officer for the Coahoma County Sheriff’s Department. During his 4 years as a resource officer, he helped to mentor many young people. Deputy Horace Whitehead is one of the young men he mentored while working in the schools.
Deputy Whitehead was 14 years old when he first encountered Officer Jones playing basketball in the park. “When I was a 14-year-old kid, he would play ball with us in the park. He was so cool and down to earth. He became more than my mentor back then. He was more of a father figure to me. He basically raised me. There were many times when I did not know where my next meal would come from. He always took notice and helped me out during those rough times. He is just an awesome guy. He never gave up on me. Sheriff Jones guided me from when I was a kid to now! He is the reason that I am in law enforcement now. He was especially tough on me so that I would take my training and career seriously. At 14, I just wanted to be like him when I grew up. Now because of him, I have a successful law enforcement career too.”
Sheriff Jones stepped up to take on one of the more challenging assignments of his career when he was appointed Chief of Police for the Town of Friars Point in 2004. As the newly appointed Chief of Police, he faced numerous obstacles, including a high crime rate and an influx of illegal drugs in the community. He took the challenge head on by first taking on the drug dealers who were distributing the drugs through the community. He partnered with state law enforcement agencies to address getting the dealers off the street, and because of his hard work, the crime rate in Friars Point steadily declined. “It was a difficult time; I was shot at and had many threats on my life. I was never fearful because I have faith. I just kept focused and did the work that needed to be done.”
During this time, Sheriff Jones started exploring ways to make more of an impact. He decided that running for Sheriff of Coahoma County was the best way to keep the momentum going. He ran for Coahoma County Sheriff in 2007, and the race was called for his opponent, who netted 50.6% of the vote. Sheriff Jones challenged the blatant irregularities in the results. He successfully took his case all the way to the Mississippi Supreme Court, where the case was ruled in his favor. As a result, the Mississippi Governor called a special election at the direction of the Mississippi Supreme Court. After a successful campaign, Sheriff Charles Jones was elected the Sheriff of Coahoma County.
Throughout all of his career ups and down, he has never become discouraged. He offers this advice to young people considering a career in law enforcement. “This is my advice, don’t just look for a job- look for a career. This is an important career that you must have a passion for. You must pray about it because it is very hard work, and you’re not going to make a lot of money doing this. You must have a heart for this work and be motivated to serve. This is a calling, and we are public servants.”
Charles is married to Andrea Wade; they have five children.