TCHULA, Miss. (WLBT) - Some people loved Police Chief Kenneth Hampton’s way of policing, and some people hated it. He didn’t pull any punches. But now that he’s come home, he says things are a little different.
“No, I’m nothing like the way I used to be,” said Hampton. “I was a lot harder on them. Now it’s more of a tough love situation. Mutual respect.”
Hampton was well known for his use of social media. He would call people out and tell them to turn themselves in, and he would name names. And he wasn’t scared to talk like what he was - a Marine.
Hampton really came into the public eye when 44-year-old Clarence Blue died. Blue was a double amputee who used a wheelchair. He was found in a pool of blood in the street in Tchula in late May 2016.
The autopsy showed he died of “coronary artery atherosclerosis,” or heart disease, but the evidence -- including blood and DNA evidence -- pointed to a beating death.
There were four suspects, and Hampton said he felt sure there was something sketchy about how it was handled by certain officials and agencies. Hired at Tchula in 2014, Hampton became chief in 2015. In 2017, he resigned under pressure. It appeared to be caused by basic differences over his leadership style.
The chief says he feels like he needed to leave in order to hone his method of policing. He says he also feels like the town needed to see what it was like without him. But when they approached him earlier this year about coming back, he says he was glad to do it for one main reason.
“I don’t think anybody cares as much about Tchula as I do,” he said.
The citizens of the town have noticed a difference. By most accounts, the criminal element in Tchula all but came to a halt with Hampton’s return.
“Crime rate is down, everything’s good,” said Tchula resident Christopher Ambrose.
Hampton says he has something of a deal with the people of Tchula. They vacate the streets at 10 p.m. and go hang out somewhere else.
“They work with me and I’ll work with them,” he said. “I don’t even see dogs and cats in the streets anymore, so… it’s beautiful.”
Former Mayor Eddie Carlton says it’s hard work for a small department, but they’re getting it done.
“We’re shorthanded and they’re doing the best they can with what we’ve got to work with. And thank God we haven’t had a lot of violence in Tchula,” he said.
Hampton has also been featured on A&E’s Facebook Watch program, “The Case I Can’t Forget.” That episode is on the Clarence Blue case. He said he’s not letting that one go.
While his style has changed a little, Hampton said don’t worry, he’s still the biggest, baddest alligator in the swamp.
“And if they don’t like that, they can kick rocks,” he said.