National Police Week spotlight

Published 7:00 am Wednesday, May 18, 2016

In recognition of National Police Week, the Picayune Item wants to share the stories of the men and women that dedicate each day to protecting Pearl River County residents, like Corporal Jason Lee of the Pearl River County Sheriff’s Department.

Lee was born and raised in McNeill, where growing up as a kid, he enjoyed hunting and fishing.

“Where I grew up, we had about 150 acres across the road where we had permission to hunt. When I was about 12-years-old I would come home from school, grab my gun and go squirrel hunting,” said Lee.

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Lee graduated from Pearl River Central High School and enjoyed every second of it. For the most part, Lee learned all his hunting skills from his father, Olen, while his mother worked in painting and construction.

“Every year I would go hunting and fishing with my father. During the summer we would go to the lake and you could pay, by the pound, for the fish you caught. We mainly caught catfish but we did more hunting than fishing,” said Lee.

Lee has been happily married to Jessi since 2004. The couple has two kids, Dave, who will be 16 next month, and Logan, 12.

Lee started out in law enforcement as a jailer in the corrections department of the police and worked for 14 months during the night shift. Corrections involves taking care of the inmates, which can involve serving breakfast, lunch and dinner or bringing them to the medical clinic if they are sick, Lee said. He also took care of their visitation on the weekends.

“It was not what I wanted to do coming into law enforcement but I came in knowing I had to pay my dues and start somewhere,” said Lee.

After that, Lee was promoted to transport, where he worked for six weeks.

“Working for transport, anytime the federal inmates had to go to court, down in Gulfport, I would transport them there, drop them off for court and bring them back. Also a transport would pick up juveniles that get sent to a juvenile detention center, because the county does not have one, and take them there,” said Lee.

The reason he worked in the transport department for only six weeks is because the day after being promoted, the Sheriff called him into his office and offered him a job on the road, pending he would graduate from the law enforcement academy.

In May of 2011, he passed the academy and started working patrol. November marked his second year working as Corporal in the day shift.

Earning the rank of Corporal is no walk through the park, and as Lee describes.

“If you do your job and the department looks at the efforts you put in and the quality of work you do, you will be considered once an opening takes place,” said Lee.

Lee adds that while certain criteria must be met, the final decision is up to the department. To earn the rank of Corporal, applicants must have at least one year on duty without write-ups or suspensions and they must be with law enforcement for two years, Lee said.

“A part of the reason why I wanted to become a police officer is because of my little brother, who fiddled with drugs. I saw my mom and dad fork out a bunch of money to try and help him and at a point, I guess, it turned from them trying to help him to him realizing that they were going to help him regardless. He pretty much used them as a crutch. Later on he got in a car wreck and passed away. I guess thinking about things and the fact that I was born and raised here and I’ll be raising my family here was part of the reason why. It’s just my part to give back to the community,” said Lee.

Lee’s younger brother passed away before he joined law enforcement.

The other reason why Lee joined law enforcement is due to his passion to help others in need. Lee recalled a day that sticks out the most.

“One day, a couple months ago, I went on a call for a suspicious vehicle. When I got there, there was an older gentleman, in his 60’s or 70’s, and he was from Florida. He came to visit his mother who was buried in the county. The guy came to stay with his sister, but apparently they had a falling-out the night before and she didn’t want him staying there. Well he didn’t have any money or any place to stay and was one or two days away from his monthly check so he was just sleeping in his car on these people’s property. He couldn’t afford a motel or hotel or anything like that, so a partner and I showed up and spoke to the landowners, explaining the situation. You could tell the guy was just down on his luck. He was just trying to visit his mama’s grave so between the landowners and me, we gave him enough money to go on his way and stay in a room. The guy drove off crying. That’s the reason I wake up and go to work every day,” said Lee.

This generosity and willingness to help is evident throughout the entire department says Lee.

Lee’s time in law enforcement makes him wish people wouldn’t judge others until they understand the situation.

“Everybody doesn’t make the decision to do the wrong thing, just because that’s the only decision they’ve got. Sometimes, people have been down a road they thought was the better option, but it ended up not being that way. Everyone deserves a second chance,” said Lee.