By Brian Livingston / email@example.com
The Meridian Star
Capt. James Sharpe, who is the acting chief for the Meridian Police Department, sees his duties in the interim position much like that of a business owner.
He notes the MPD has a clientele for whom the department provides a service — that clientele being the citizens of Meridian. He says the department provides a service to this clientele in the form of protection against criminal activity. In short, Sharpe says his number one priority is to get this business running smoothly and efficiently and within the parameters set by law.
In the wake of James Reed's resignation recently, Sharpe has found himself working hard to get his officers and staff ready to meet any of the challenges facing the department while at the same time preparing the department for the eventual hiring of a new police chief.
"Right now we are in the process of re-establishing a stable work environment both mentally and structurally," says Sharpe. "The structural part is well underway with the construction of the new police facility begun last year. I and my department heads are also concentrating on the mental and functioning aspects of the job which will provide better services to the citizens of Meridian. At this time the morale at the department is higher than it been for a long time. Officers are able to 'police' again which in turn produces the reduction in crime which has been seen in the past few weeks."
Sharpe says he feels it is time for the MPD to go "old school."
"Over the years the police department has gotten away from some of the most basic principles and practices," Sharpe says. "We are going back to basics but we need to remain flexible and open to new law enforcement techniques, strategies, technologies, and ideas."
Sharpe said several strategies have already been employed at the department which to his knowledge hadn't been used before, and he adds several more are going to be implemented in the coming weeks.
"I am also looking at possible personnel reassignments to promote productivity within the department and on the streets of Meridian," Sharpe said.
Officers with the MPD also joined deputies with the Lauderdale County Sheriff's Department is becoming certified in the Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) that trains officers how best to deal with mentally ill people.
"We, like the deputies with the sheriff's department, have had to deal with mentally ill people for many years so I'm thankful we can now have the training and support from the mental health professionals to help us in this matter," Sharpe said.
The 44,000 square foot, multi-million dollar facility now being built on 22nd Avenue South will give the MPD the kind of facility befitting their service to the city, officials say. No stone was left unturned in the planning of the building that will house the Meridian Municipal Court and its staff in addition to giving the force access to unprecedented storage and law enforcement space.
No more lack of air conditioning or heat, no more cramp offices where half a dozen detectives must share a very limited space. No more shortfalls in terms of holding cells and interrogation rooms. The new facility answers these problems plus many more, officials have said.
The city will pay rent over a period of 20 years for a minimum of $8.2 million, including $2.1 million the city will pay up front from funds derived from police department seized property. The annual rent will be $305,000, allowing for possible increases based on the consumer price index every five years.