For Everyone’s Safety: Picayune PD performs proper officer interaction skits
Published 7:00 am Saturday, August 13, 2016
Thursday, officers with the Picayune Police Department performed a series of skits at Pleasant Valley Baptist Church designed to inform the public about t proper and improper ways to interact with law enforcement officers.
Picayune Council members Larry Breland and Lynn Bogan Bumpers hosted the event with the intent to inform citizens about these procedures and open communication between the community and police department, Breland said in a previous interview.
The skits are designed to give the community a better understanding of why police officers do what they do on a daily basis, Picayune Police Chief Bryan Dawsey told the crowd.
Dawsey said a former Picayune resident recently contacted him and asked, “What makes Picayune different from every other city in the country?”
“I told her it’s because my department, men and women are involved in this community and have relationships,” Dawsey said. “We’ve had situations, but we’ve always been able to come together with the city as a whole and agree. Sometimes we have to agree to disagree, but we’ve always been able to come to an understanding. We want to continue to build that community relationship.”
The primary role of an officer in the community is to protect and serve, Dawsey said. If the community stands behind their police department, it will be successful.
“Tips that help solve crimes come from citizens who trust us enough,” Dawsey said. “It takes the police department and community working together to make a safer environment.”
The first skit involved a scenario where an officer was dispatched to investigate reports of a suspicious person looking into vehicles. In the skit, the suspect had a black object in the waistband of his pants.
During this scenario, the officer approached a man on the street who followed the officer’s orders. The second scenario involved a non-compliant person.
“If you have an encounter with an officer, they believe that criminal activity is going on,” Assistant Chief Jeremy Magri said. “At that point, he can pat you down or handcuff you, if they get dispatched to a suspicious person with a gun. But that’s for your protection as well as the officer’s. If you comply, you are both going to be fine. The officer won’t always be right, but as long as you comply and let the officer do what he has to do and he sees nothing going on, he goes his way and you go yours.”
An officer may be on high alert based on what the dispatcher told them.
Even if a person is compliant, they must still inform the officer that they are carrying a weapon, Magri added. Depending on the scenario, if a person does have a weapon, Magri suggested they go ahead and put their hands up.
Dawsey also explained that citizens are allowed to carry weapons, either openly or in a concealed manner. A permit is not required carry a weapon openly, but people must have a permit to carry a concealed weapon. On July 1, it became legal in Mississippi to carry a firearm in a briefcase or purse without a concealed carry permit, Dawsey said.
“If you do have a permit, tell the officer that it’s in your wallet,” Dawsey said. “Don’t reach for it. It’s for the officer’s safety, since they don’t know your intent.”
The second scenario involved a traffic stop. Again, officers demonstrated the difference between compliance and non-compliance. According to the script, someone reported to dispatchers they observed a car moving at high speeds while weaving in and out of traffic.
Gleaning from his experience as a patrol officer, Magri offered the following suggestions.
“If you get pulled over, I suggest putting hands on the steering wheel,” he said. “Don’t reach for anything because the officer doesn’t know what you are reaching for. Don’t do anything until the officer asks you to.”
It’s also important to let the officer know if there is a weapon in the vehicle. For the officer’s safety, they will ask the person to step outside the vehicle while the officer retrieves and unloads the gun before placing it in the passenger’s floorboard.
If a motorist refuses to obey an officer, they could be arrested for disorderly conduct. They also ask that motorists stay off their phones after being stopped.
Officers also suggested that people let an officer know if they may have a medical condition.
“Ladies, if you don’t feel safe stopping when an officer puts their lights on, put your flashers on and drive slowly to a well lit area,” Capt. Constance Myers said. “That lets the officer know that you acknowledged the lights, but just driving somewhere you feel safe.”
One of the main directives officers stressed was compliance.
“When approached by an officer, just comply,” Dawsey said. “It may seem unreasonable but if you have problems, come in, report it and we will investigate.”
A few years ago, the Picayune Police Department became one of the first in Mississippi to utilize body cameras, Dawsey said. Every day, each officer is required to download the footage. Dawsey also reviews the videos to “make sure my officers are doing their job.”
“I’ve had to take actions against officers who didn’t treat a citizen right,” he said. “Since body cams, complaints have dropped dramatically.”
Mary Cassy Bolden, youth director at St. Matthews Missionary Baptist Church, brought her grandsons to the event because she said youth need to be aware and safe.
“They may not drive right now, but they can take this information back to their older friends,” she said.
Micah Scott, 14, said the presentation was “good” and he learned not to reach for things when stopped by a police officer.
“It’s important to listen to the police officers because something bad might happen,” Scott said.
Ruby Stubbs, secretary for the Pearl River County Chapter of the NAACP, said she enjoyed found the program educational.
“I didn’t know certain things and what to do when pulled over and keeping hands visible,” she said. “Next time, I hope the church will be full.”