By Brian Livingston / email@example.com
The Meridian Star
In the wake of James Reed's resignation recently as the police chief for the Meridian Police Department, assistant chief Capt. James Sharpe has found himself in the position of leading the department through the transition period.
"In a sense I see it much like running any other business," Sharpe says. "We have clientele, employees, and we provide a service, which is protecting the citizens of Meridian. My goal is to make sure that this business runs smoothly, efficiently, and within perimeters set by law."
There are many in the community and in positions of authority, such as some members of the Meridian City Council, who aren't accepting the resignation of Reed who cited personal reasons as the impetus for abruptly handing in his resignation to Meridian Mayor Cheri Barry earlier this month. Many residents of Meridian and some members of the city council, such as Jesse Palmer, Mary Perry and Bobby Smith, want to know more as to what caused Reed to arrive at the sudden decision. Many believe a report by WTOK concerning Reed not being a certified police officer was the driving force behind Reed's announcement Feb. 4.
But this is politics and something Sharpe has no time to get involved in.
Barry said recently Sharpe was appointed so that one person would be in charge of the MPD.
"Chief Sharpe will serve as acting chief while we explore candidates for the permanent role of Meridian Police Chief," Barry said. "I'm very pleased with his ability and with his leadership skills. He has already surrounded himself with all of his officers and has a plan of action to reduce the crime in this community. Chief Sharpe is doing a great job."
Sharpe is a 21-year veteran of the MPD having begun his law enforcement career as a patrol officer in February of 1992. He has worked up through the ranks and has performed duty in the Narcotics Division, Criminal Investigation Division, as a Direct Action Response Team member (DART), a SWAT team member and in various administrative positions. Asked what the most pressing needs and challenges are now facing the department, Sharpe said the re-establishing of a stable and efficient working environment was paramount on his list.
"I'm pleased with the progress we have made in the last couple of weeks," Sharpe said. "We are policing again, which in turn, I believe, has sparked the reduction in crime during that period."
Sharpe believes that over the past several years the police department has gotten away from some of the most basic principles and practices.
"For lack of a better term, we are going old school in a lot of the ways we do things both on the street and within the department," Sharpe said.
However, Sharpe also said the department needs to remain flexible and open to new law enforcement techniques, strategies, technologies, and ideas. He said several strategies have already been employed at the department, which to his knowledge hasn’t been used before, and several more are going to be implemented in the coming weeks.
"I am also looking at possible personnel re-assignments to promote productivity within the department and on the streets of Meridian," said Sharpe.
Barry said she began looking for a chief to replace Reed the day he resigned.
"We will continue to look for the very best person who will serve and protect this city," Barry said.
Sharpe was asked if he would throw in his hat to be the next chief of police.
"At this time I am still undecided but I will keep the possibility open," said Sharpe.
Another huge project Sharpe is overseeing as the acting chief is the completion of the new Law Enforcement Facility located on 22nd Avenue South. The 44,000 square foot facility will house the Meridian Municipal Court system as well as everything the department will need to conduct their day-to-day operations.
"The new facility will be a big improvement over what we have had to operate out of for so long," said Sharpe. "We will have more room for storage and for conducting our tasks. We will have room for the personnel. I have seen a marked improvement in the morale of the officers in anticipation of our move."
When posed with the question as to whether the next chief should come from inside the MPD or outside, respondents on the Meridian Star's Facebook page were split with their opinions. Many, who are convinced that "good ole boy politics" reigns supreme at the MPD, said it was imperative the next chief come from outside the circle while others said someone from the department would be a good choice if a worthy candidate set themselves apart from the pack.
"Absolutely not," said Tony White in reference to hiring from within the department. "There isn't anyone qualified to bring the MPD thru the changes the city is dealing with. Must keep looking for that highly qualified candidate with measurable experience. Be prepared to pay a handsome sum to get that person."
"You should always promote within if someone is qualified to do the job," said Randy Tuggle. "That's the problem with this country now, we don't hire qualified people!!"