Meridian Star

January 7, 2014

State homeland security director visits training facility

The Meridian Star

MERIDIAN — By Brian Livingston

    Before Rusty Barnes was appointed director of the Mississippi Department of Homeland Security, he spent 26 years in law enforcement as a deputy sheriff and a trooper with the Mississippi Highway Patrol.

    During those years he said he mostly worked rural counties where the law enforcement agencies were small and not usually part of the information sharing network that today is so vital to keeping abreast of new initiatives, procedures, and information gathering techniques. Through the MILO program, Mississippi Information Liaison Officer, Barnes hopes even the smallest agency can help in being a part of a growing number of agencies whose shared information can likely save countless lives.

    "Before 911, no one talked to anyone else outside their jurisdiction or agency," Barnes told a group of officers gathered on their graduation day Monday at the Meridian/Lauderdale County Public Safety Training Facility in Meridian. "The sharing of information improved, according to Barnes, but the Sandy Hook massacre of school children and teachers proved much more must be done. He said MILO is a program in which the sharing of information is used as an important tool to spot trends that may impact large numbers of citizens.

    "Just because you don't think you have a particular problem, doesn't mean you don't actually have a problem," Barnes said. "This program gets the individual officer involved so they are part of the network of information, no matter how small the information may be."

    Steve Williams, who is the coordinator for MILO and an instructor for the program, said this information sharing is on the level of confidential data that requires the officer who graduates from the course to follow specific guidelines on how and with whom he shares this information. The Fusion Center, more technically known as the Mississippi Analysis and Information Center (MSAIC), is the intelligence gathering arm of the state department of homeland security, Williams said. He said the center gathers, interprets, and then shares information from local, state, and federal resources to prevent criminal activity or other threats to public safety.

    "It can go up the chain or down the chain," Williams said, talking in relation to the type of information gained and who it may impact. "The Fusion Center doesn't store the information, it shares it with other agencies so they can be better informed on what is happening at that moment."

    Williams said MILO and the Fusion Center began in the state in 2010. He said every state in the nation has Fusion Centers and this ability to gather and share this type of sensitive information.