It’s been on call 24/7/365 for Southaven Police Chief Steve Pirtle for four decades of law enforcement, from an officer to assistant police chief, and as Southaven Police Chief since 2016, when Tom Long retired from the position.
After June 15, Pirtle will not have to deal with late night phone calls, trips to oversee investigation scenes, or things like that.
During a staff meeting with the entire force on hand late Friday, Pirtle announced that he would be retiring from the police force.
“I called a meeting for the entire department to come because I felt like I owed it to them to hear it straight from me and not hear it trickle through and find out little by little,” said Pirtle exclusively to the DeSoto Times-Tribune Friday afternoon. “They deserve that. They’re a great staff, they’ve done a superb job and I felt like that was the way it needed to be handled for all of them.”
It’s been no days off for the career officer, who started with the Horn Lake Police Department and then came to Southaven to start what would become more than 36 years helping protect the citizens of the state’s third-largest city.
“There just comes a time in your life to you need to slow down a little bit,” Pirtle said. “I’ve had 40 excellent years in law enforcement that I’ve enjoyed, but it’s just time for me to move on and look at my next chapter in my life.”
Pirtle added a desire to step back was the only impetus for his upcoming departure and was not related to a specific incident, such as the 2017 shooting death of Ishmael Lopez at the hands of two Southaven police officers. District Attorney John Champion determined he would not seek charges against the officers, but the legal counsel for the Lopez family has continued to seek civil damages against the city and the officers involved.
“It was unfortunate, but the incident did not factor into my decision to retire,” Pirtle said. “There was no place whatsoever for that in the consideration.”
The head of the Southaven department said he was proud and appreciative of the work his officers have done while he has been their leader.
“The men and women I had working underneath me had the dedication to be out on the street and lay it on the line each and every day and try to keep Southaven as safe as possible,” Pirtle said. “Whatever the circumstances were that they were faced with, they always rose to the occasion and met those circumstances.”
Chief Pirtle said he was also looking forward to spending time with his family and catch up on moments he said he has missed being involved in his police work as they were growing up.
“For the time being it’s going to be spending some time with my wife,” Pirtle said about his future plans. “My kids are grown now, but potentially spending some time with them. The years that my kids were growing up and all, I was on call constantly and missed a lot of things, so I just want to spend a little time and enjoy them a little bit.”
When asked about Pirtle's work as Police Chief, Southaven Mayor Darren Musselwhite said in a statement, “Chief Pirtle gave our city 36 1/2 years of loyal service. He is one of the most unselfish and hardest-working people I’ve ever known. Whenever I asked him for help, he stopped what he was doing and delivered solutions with detail. He played a key role in making our Police Department and city what it is today. We have big shoes to fill and will miss him!”
Bob Bakken is Managing Editor for the DeSoto Times-Tribune.