Local law enforcement agencies concerned over national events

Published 7:00 am Tuesday, July 19, 2016

The news of officers being shot and killed in Baton Rouge has affected the way some local law enforcement agencies respond to calls.
While none of the local departments have received direct threats, deputies and officers are taking every precaution to ensure their safety while protecting the communities they serve.
Pearl River County Sheriff David Allison said his department has not moved to two deputies patrolling together, but now they request backup before responding to certain situations, such as traffic stops with suspicious aspects.
Additionally, they have been on the lookout for groups of protesters heading to other areas. Allison said law enforcement agencies met with the Mississippi Highway Patrol earlier this month concerning those groups traveling the interstate, advising officers to be mindful as passerbys stop in this area for fuel or supplies. Allison said deputies have not see a lot of groups.
But in light of what occurred over the weekend in Louisiana’s capitol, some local law enforcement agencies are looking harder into additional safety gear. Allison said his department is looking into purchasing stronger bulletproof vests. They will test them first to ensure they don’t restrict an officer’s ability to do their job. If the test goes well, the stronger vests will be assigned to the tactical team, and are said to utilize steel plates to protect the individual wearing it.
Poplarville Police Chief Butch Raby said he is fortunate to work in a close-knit community, where people are showing support with hugs, handshakes and gifts of food and drink.
“It’s a good feeling that everyone is coming together,” Raby said.
He, too, reported that no threats have been lodged directly at the department, although they are still watchful, especially of people passing through. They are doubling the officers responding up on some calls, a practice they have used before when feasible, Raby said.
As for safety equipment, the Poplarville department’s vests are relatively new, and each officer is qualified to carry not only their service pistol but an assault rifle as well.
The Picayune Police Department has assigned more patrol officers in response to events nationwide, said Chief Bryan Dawsey.
“It’s a shame that it’s come to this,” Dawsey said. “It’s scary. I feel for the all of the officer’s families that had been killed.”
He has stressed that officers need to be observant and practice safety. Even though these incidents have occurred in larger cities, Dawsey said such an incident could happen anywhere.
They too have talked about purchasing stronger vests, but their cost is very high.
In response to these attacks on law enforcement, a local business owner has established a fundraiser to help the Picayune Police Department purchase new vests to replace the ones that have become ineffective.
All three men ask that the community continue to pray for those who lost their lives in the line of duty, and for the families they left behind.
“We appreciate the community support and ask them to pray for the local law enforcement agencies,” Dawsey said.
Officer involved shootings don’t happen often in Pearl River County. The most recent incident occurred in Picayune on May 24, when 53-year-old James Hart of Picayune fired at investigators after they pulled him over for a noise violation. Hart was shot twice when officers returned fire, and hospitalized. He was released from the hospital and later arrested on June 23, for two counts of aggravated assault on a police officer, possession of a weapon by a convicted felon, resisting arrest by fleeing, disorderly conduct, loud noise violation and a hold was placed on him by the Mississippi Department of Corrections, said Assistant Chief Jeremy Magri. His bond was set at $506,250, but even if he bonds out MDOC will take him into custody, Magri said. Hart is still being held in the city’s jail.

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