JPD partnerships helping to fight crimeBy ANTHONY WARREN,
Partnerships between the Jackson Police Department and state and federal law enforcement agencies continue to bear fruit in the city’s efforts to fight crime.
Recently, yet another repeat offender in Jackson will be facing federal prison time, thanks to the efforts of the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
Chief Lee Vance credits the city’s relationships with the feds to former U.S. Attorney Gregory Davis.
The city partnered with Davis’ office in 2015 to get some of the city’s “worst of the worst” offenders off the street.
“He had the ability to go to the ATF, DEA and FBI and say, ‘we’re going to do something for Jackson,’ and it took off and is still in place,” Vance said.
And earlier this year, the department worked alongside federal officials to conduct three crime sweeps across the city.
About 100 warrants were issued during the last sweep, which occurred around Memorial Day, Vance said.
“It was unprecedented seeing federal agents working side-by-side with JPD officers. There’s a significant benefit in having these types of relationships with the feds,” he said.
The relationships continue to be important, as JPD struggles with both a shortage of officers and a local justice system criticized for releasing repeat offenders back on the streets.
One of those offenders was Michael Evans, who police say was involved in a 2016 crash and dash at the Rite Aid pharmacy on Old Canton Road.
“The feds adopted some cases on him and we heard he’s about to get seven to 10 years in prison,” Vance said. “He’s a guy we’ve been arresting since I was a sergeant, and I was a sergeant in 1996.
“The thing about the federal system is that if you get 10 years, we’ll see you in 10 years. It’s day-for-day,” he said. “I’ll be retired by the time he gets out of prison.”
Vance hopes the city continues having a strong working relationship with federal enforcement officials once a new U.S. Attorney is confirmed. President Donald Trump has tapped Mike Hurst, of Madison, to serve as Southern District Attorney. Hurst was confirmed by the U.S. Senate last week.
He was not immediately available for comment.
Meanwhile, the number of sworn officers in JPD continues to shrink.
In August, Vance told the City Council during budget hearings that JPD had 373 sworn officers, down from 383 in June.
The drop represents an 11-year low for the department. JPD ended fiscal year 2016 with 440 officers, according to the 2016 audits.
“We had a DUI unit. We no longer have a DUI unit. We had a quality of life unit. We had to shut that down and put those officers back on the street. We had a unit of bailiffs. We had eight in that unit, now we have four because (we) had to send those officers back to patrol,” he said.
The chief credited the shortage to low pay. Starting pay for recruits in Jackson is around $25,900 for officers coming out of the Jackson Police Training Academy. After six months, pay is raised to $26,375 a year; and after a year, salaries are bumped to around $31,000.
By contrast, in Mobile, officers earn $31,679 out of the academy, and $36,679 after six months; Shreveport officers earn $33,000 in the first year; and Birmingham officers with a high school diploma or equivalency earn $37,230 a year, according to each city’s Web site. Little Rock officers earn $40,821 during the academy and first year on the job, according to previous reports in the Sun.
No pay increases for the department were included in the 2018 budget.
Jackson has benefited from its federal partnerships in other ways as well. The ATF gave the city access to NIBIN, the National Integrated Ballistic Information Network, a national database that includes gunfire data from weapons collected at crime scenes.
For a brief period, the department used ShotSpotter, thanks to its relationship with the FBI.
ShotSpotter equipment was installed a few years ago, and used sensors to pinpoint the location and time shots were fired. Sounds collected by the sensors are sent to a monitoring center, which determines whether the “shots” were from a gun, fireworks or from a car backfiring. Once the determination is made, the department is notified.
The system covered Precinct One, where the majority of the incidents at the time occurred.
“The FBI was instrumental in getting that to us. They paid for it the first two years and the city had the option to pick up the costs,” Vance said previously. “It was something we could not afford.”