By Brian Livingston
An effort to hire more police officers for the Meridian Police Department is paying off, Chief James Lee said at a recent meeting to welcome the new officers and 10 new recruits to the department.
"These men and women are joining the new and improved Meridian Police Department," Lee said. "We have been recruiting officers from all over the state and beyond to get the best qualified officers for Meridian. I'm excited about where we are going."
A dozen certified police officers who have just recently hit the streets of Meridian sat around the conference table inside the department on South 22nd Avenue. One of those officers, David Freeman, has been in law enforcement for more than 15 years from departments on the Mississippi Gulf Coast northwards to Meridian. He said his decision to join the department was an easy one.
"There is an excitement here that is evident," Freeman said. "I've seen a great deal in law enforcement and I especially like the growth opportunities here at the MPD in terms of my law enforcement career. I think I can grow as an officer here and further develop my leadership skills."
Emory Watson, a police recruit, is used to wearing a uniform. He is a former member of the U.S. Navy.
"When the opening came up and I visited the area I was struck by the strong sense of commitment, leadership and community here," said Watson, who is from Newport News, Va. "I see a lot of qualities here that I enjoyed in the Navy, such as camaraderie, family and sense of community."
Watson and nine other recruits have been going through training at the Meridian/Lauderdale County Public Safety Training Facility located on Sandflat Road. He, like the others in his class, will attend the Mississippi Law Enforcement Academy in Pearl after the first of the year. Those who graduate from the academy will become the next batch of new hires at the department, which now boasts 106 police officers.
"We are proud of all these men and women who have chosen to come and serve the people of Meridian," Mayor Percy Bland said. "We have scoured all over Mississippi and in neighboring states such as Texas and Tennessee to find officers who will come in here and make Meridian a clean city, a safe city."
Bland said he will continue to work closely with Lee to try and meet the needs of the police department. Bland said he is confident the members of the Meridian City Council will do all they can to help maintain this pipeline of officers to the city.
"I will continue to stand behind the department in giving all these officers the resources they need to make Meridian as safe as possible," Bland said. "We aren't so naive to believe we can wipe out crime altogether but there are many things we can do to fight crime and make the city a much better place in which to live."
By Brian Livingston
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