JACKSON COUNTY, Miss. (WLOX) – As law enforcement reform efforts sweep the country, Moss Point is looking at ways to improve the police department’s relationship with the community.
Mayor Mario King is pushing for an overhaul of the department in the hopes that it will improve those relationships.
Hiring officers who are invested in the community, putting better screening procedures in place for officers, and revising the department’s excessive force policy are some of the things he is exploring more as he pushes for reform.
Adding officers to the police department that can relate to people living in the area is the goal, said Moss Point Mayor Mario King.
“We’ve looked at recruiting people that actually live in the community, that are from the community, working inside of the high school and working inside the job core and the WIN job center,” said King. “Working with those departments and those places to be able to really truly be able to recruit people that understand and that are culturally competent and aware of the surroundings of this community and people that actually live here.”
King believes that additional screening of applicants will help find the proper candidates.
“When you do a background check on an individual employee, it might be a little bit surface level,” King said. “I think with policing, we do need to dig a little bit deeper and we should be able to ask more questions of former employees than we do now, and those things are legally guided,” said King. “Those are the types of things we must look at. We need to look at true policy reform if we’re going to really look at changing the culture of policing as an institution.”
On top of hiring more qualified officers, Pascagoula Gautier School District Chief of Law Enforcement Calvin Hutchins believes funding is necessary for better technology like body cameras and additional training.
“Defunding is something that we definitely don’t want to get involved in. You should never defund a police department,” said Hutchins. “Funding the police department is something that is very essential to every agency along the coast. We can use the extra funds to continue to send officers to specialized training.”
Mayor King hopes to reform their excessive force policy by the end of July.