After achieving his first career goal of becoming a law enforcement officer, Jerry “Bubba” Williams II had to wait nearly two decades before realizing the second.
Son of late longtime Charleston police chief Jerry Wayne Williams, the 43-year-old offspring was recently named interim police chief by the Charleston Board of Commissioners — a position that, barring board action to the contrary, will segue into a full-fledged chief’s role within two weeks.
That he has been offered this opportunity to follow, at least partly, in his father’s footsteps makes him proud.
“My career was based off of him being chief,” the younger Williams said. “In 2003, when I got hired [as a Charleston policeman], my goal was to help the people and, hopefully, work my way up to the chief’s position.”
But, he explained, ascending to the top cop spot was not simply about mirroring his dad’s police career.
“As chief, it would be my department and, hopefully, I could change anything that needed to be changed to make it better or, if not, keep it the way it was and keep moving forward along with moving Charleston forward,” junior explained.
Starting in the early '80s, the senior Williams put in some 22 years with the Charleston Police Department, including almost 14 years as chief. He eventually stepped down over health concerns.
Father and son actually got to work together for a couple of years. That was after the elder Williams left the chief’s post and sat out of law enforcement for a while due to health, then returned to be a humble patrolman — something he and his son had in common at the time.
“I learned a lot being around him, working with him,” the interim chief said. “There’s several people in my career I could thank.”
He mentioned former Charleston police officer Allen Meek, former police chief and now local deputy sheriff John Page, and former Tallahatchie County investigator Andy Estridge as some of those who have helped shape his career.
Williams was appointed interim police chief Jan. 19. He had applied for the position after former chief Justin Gammage left in 2020.
Junior was a member of the Charleston Police Department for 14½ years, where he ascended to the rank of investigator. For a while, he was handler for the city’s K-9 unit. His dad was witness to about six years of his son's career before he died Aug. 12, 2009, at the age of 61.
After leaving Charleston’s police force, Williams served in several capacities, including being elected to one term as constable for Tallahatchie County’s District 1 and working as a deputy for the Tallahatchie County Sheriff’s Office.
With about 18 years as a certified law enforcement officer under his belt, Williams said he wants to help make the CPD the best it can be.
“Overall, I’ve got a young department, but they don’t mind working,” he said of his seven officers. “We’re going to get more training, because training is big to me. I think that’s how I’ve been so successful in my career — whether it’s supervisor training, narcotics training, looking beyond the ticket, or whatever.”
With a relatively young police force, Williams said he will be leaning on the experience and leadership of Capt. Wendy Jones “a good bit, because she’s been there for 20-odd years.”
Williams has almost three-dozen certifications from past seminars, summits and training sessions he has attended with agencies ranging from the Mississippi Office of Highway Safety to the Mississippi Bureau of Narcotics, and from the Domestic Violence Project Inc. to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
He also has more than one-dozen certifications stemming from his work as a volunteer firefighter in the city of Charleston.
In addition to increased training, Williams said he has a few ideas for better equipping the police department.
“There are a couple of items of equipment that I want to get, one being body cameras,” he said. “Body cameras are there to protect my officers. It shows what happens. If you use them correctly, they can save you. It makes everybody honest — whether it be the officer, the complainant or the suspect.
“If I’m out encountering anything, I would have a body camera on, too. I’m no different from my officers in that regard.”
Williams said the city would need 10 body cameras to supply the force.
As a native Charlestonian who has lived his entire life in the area, Williams said he will be devoting himself entirely to the job.
“I’m going to be a working chief,” he noted. “I’m going to be out in the public. It might not be as much as it used to be, because there is paperwork that’s got to be done, but I will be a working chief and I will be available 24 hours a day.”
Williams asks one thing in return: for the public to inform him of any concerns they may have with police.
“If there are any problems the citizens of Charleston are having with the police department or any officer, please come to me. Call me. We will get it handled,” he said. “We will have a meeting or whatever we need to do. Come to me and let me handle my officers. I will be fair and honest.”
Williams said he may be reached on his city cell number at 662-375-2983.
Editor's note: This story has been expanded from its original print version and corrected to reflect that Jerry Wayne Williams began his law enforcement career in the early '80s, not the late '80s, as was originally stated.