Mayfield makes MHP history

Published 7:22 pm Sunday, May 6, 2018

March 6, Darnika Mayfield made history as the first female from Warren County to graduate from the Mississippi Highway Patrol Training Academy.

“It hasn’t hit me yet,” she said of the distinction. “People keep coming up to me saying, ‘You’re the first, you’re the first;’ but it really hasn’t hit me yet. I’m still trying to process everything.”

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A former Warren County sheriff’s deputy who was the Sheriff’s Office’s officer of the year in 2017, Mayfield said she decided to join the Highway Patrol “because of the opportunity and advancement in my career.

“I wanted to be a role model for young ladies, and especially for my kids. They’re mostly the reason why I do everything here, especially my daughter, who’s in the nursing program now (at Hinds Community College’s Allied Health) and going to be an RN, and I have a 10-year-old son as well.”

But in the beginning, law enforcement wasn’t on her radar.

“Law enforcement,” she said, “found me, to be honest. It was never a dream of mine, but the opportunity came my way. God put the opportunity in may hands and I stepped out on faith and jumped on it. I’ve enjoying it since then.”

A native of Tchula, Mayfield moved to Hollandale and then to Vicksburg, where she has lived for the past 23 years. She worked as a school bus monitor and teacher assistant in the GED program at the Vicksburg Warren School District’s alternative school before joining the sheriff’s office, where she started working in the county jail.

“I was there for a year and one month and went to the academy in Moorhead,” she said, adding when she returned she was assigned to court services as bailiff. She worked in the courthouse for three years before deciding to join the Highway Patrol and attended the MHP Academy in Pearl.

Going through the academy, she said, “Was the most challenging thing I’ve ever done in my life other than having children. I wouldn’t have made it through without my family, God and all the support I had in Vicksburg, a lot of the state troopers supported me as well.

“My class started with 120 and graduated 57. We started with five women and three graduated.”

At the academy, she said, the biggest challenge was the physical training; “having to get your body adjusted to the exercise.

“There are many times you tell yourself, ‘quitting tomorrow, quitting tomorrow,’ but you still get up and keep going,” Mayfield said. “I had motivation — my family and all the people who supported me. I didn’t want to see the disappointment on their faces — all the ones who guided me.”

But the toughest part of the academy, Mayfield said, was having to go back every Sunday.

“That was the toughest thing for me. We went through Sunday through Friday, so we only had a one day break. I missed being with my family, but you know what you’re stepping into, and what you’re going to have to do.”

Mayfield’s reward for graduating was two weeks off before she began the 12-week field training period she is in now, where she rides with an experienced trooper.

The field training period has been enjoyable, she said, “But it’s a lot of learning, you have to pay attention to lot of details.”

“We focus more on what we do (on the road) as opposed to the physical training that you go through at the academy,” said Kervin Stewart, one of her field training officers. “We are responsible for making sure they’re ready to go out on the road.”

“In field training, they get you to pay attention to a lot of detail as well,” Mayfield said. “But now you’re just really out and really paying attention to detail. He (Stewart) was a lot of my motivation.”

During her first week, she said, she watched her FTO and everything he did, “But now he’s watching me. He’s watching what I do. I’m making all the traffic stops now.”

Working a traffic stop, Mayfield said, she hears a lot of stories, adding after she hears an unusual tale, she’ll look at her training officer and say, “They actually told me that. They actually came up with something like that.

“But it’s been enjoyable. I’ve been enjoying it,” she said.

And she is already setting her goals for the future, beginning with FTO.

“I told him (Stewart), ‘This is just the beginning for me. Just the beginning.’”

And will she one day carry the title of MHP commander?

“Give me about 10 more years,” Mayfield said. “I will be that.”

She said being on the road is easier than being in the academy, adding, “I can go home everyday, and that’s the No. 1 goal, to go home every night to your family.”

About John Surratt

John Surratt is a graduate of Louisiana State University with a degree in general studies. He has worked as an editor, reporter and photographer for newspapers in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post staff since 2011 and covers city government. He and his wife attend St. Paul Catholic Church and he is a member of the Port City Kiwanis Club.

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