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Candidate Survey: Candidates share how they will address public safety issues

Editor’s note: This survey is only for those candidates taking part in the April 6 primaries. Mayoral candidates Daryl Hollingsworth and incumbent Mayor George Flaggs Jr., as well as South Ward Alderman Alex Monsour, were not included in this survey as they are not participating or do not have any challengers in the April 6 primary. The Post will have another round of questions for those taking part in the June 8 general election.

 

One of the most important services a municipal government can provide its citizens is public safety, which is provided by two agencies: the police department, which has the goal of making sure people are safe and protected in their homes and while out in the city, and the fire department, which is responsible for providing residents protection from fire and in Vicksburg’s case providing emergency medical services.

Public safety is a topic that can elicit different responses from different people, who in some cases believe the city is not doing enough to keep them safe.

The Vicksburg Post invited responses to four questions — one of which focused on the COVID-19 pandemic — to the candidates competing in the April 6 party primaries. There are three candidates for mayor, two in the North Ward and two in the South Ward. Their unedited responses are being featured in a series of articles addressing one of the four topics. Public safety is the third topic. The first was economic development; the second was COVID-19.

 

Question: As (mayor/alderman), what actions would you take to deal with public safety within the city? Please be specific as to any plans, programs or initiatives you believe are needed.

 

Candidates for the Democratic nominee for mayor:

Shawn Jackson: We must all accept that crime’s trending down nationally, yet trending up locally, and prioritize fixing it.

  • Invest In Youth Services:  Let’s take wasted budget money and apply it to services that give children alternatives to crime.
  • Hire Experienced Officers At Higher Pay: VPD is severely understaffed.  I would allocate funding toward recruiting and advanced training to better prepare our officers for community policing in 2021.
  • Put Our People To Work: It’s a fact that unemployment drives crime. If blessed to become Mayor, I would invest in small business and local purchasing to put our people to work.

 

Troy Kimble: No nonsense, no tolerance, no compromise on public safety. My extensive knowledge and experience in law enforcement will help enrich public safety management. I will work with the alderman and department leadership to develop fair and viable solutions for recruitment, retention, and enhanced training for our public safety rank and file. Successful employee training and deployment in diversity, community policing, de-escalation, and specialized tactics usage will be the forefront of my public safety initiatives.  I will work with our legal and judiciary systems, and community organizations to invoke programs for proactive and preventive measures to deter threats to public safety.

 

Willis Thompson: The police department has lost a lot of experience in the past four years. In 2017, there were approximately 72 certified officers. Now, it’s approximately half that number. When the department is understaffed and overworked, this can hinder the effectiveness of officers solving crimes. There needs to be more attention given to recruitment and retention. As South Ward Alderman, I met with Hinds CC administration and the VWSD administration to get the city more involved with the public safety division of their CTE program. The goal was to allow firemen to answer questions and talk to students about career opportunities in fire service. This recruitment strategy can be replicated with the police department. We can also directly recruit from colleges. We need to also ensure funds are allocated for training and proper equipment for police and fire/EMS personnel. I would also like to see more of a merit pay system installed to reward and retain high performance.

 

Candidates competing for North Ward Alderman:

Michael Mayfield: As an alderman of the City of Vicksburg, public safety has always been a main focus of the North Ward office. Providing and ensuring proving public safety begins and ends with adequate planning and preparation. Communication is a key factor in preventing and adequately responding to any potential dangers.

I plan to continue developing a team that will take action during and following an emergency. By conducting training for all phases of an emergency, and identifying employee roles and we should be able to develop and implement strategies that ensure the continued operation of facilities before, during, and after an incident.

 

Alfred Lee Webb: To meet the public safety needs of a diverse community of residents, the city must ensure a comprehensive and inclusive approach to law enforcement and justice that promotes fair policing and prosecution practices, strengthens the relationship between law enforcement and community members, reduces reliance on incarceration, and provides legitimate opportunities for justice involving individuals to pursue education and attain employment and housing. Also the city has to ensure first responders are able to provide real-time communication and the status of a present situation. This proves to be a game-changer when city agencies work together to respond to emergencies in Vicksburg.

 

Candidates for the Democratic nomination for South Ward Alderman:

Vickie Bailey: First and foremost, I will collect and focus on the data related to the crime and violence within our community, such as Homicides, Non-Fatal Shootings, Mental Health Calls, and the Unemployment Rate, in order to assess and understand what is going on.

Many people are struggling in this community. A vast sector of people in this city feel like they do not have a voice and they are without hope. As a community, we must address these issues. These concerns threaten the City and it’s simply the right thing to do. Poverty breeds crime and violence and as people, we have a mandate to assist.

 

Thomas “TJ” Mayfield: We must first offer more programs that keep our youth actively engaged all year long, both academically and athletically. As a city official, I would like to help fund after-school programs that allow students to be safe and have access to tutoring while parents work later hours. I would like to create a commission of young people from ages 12-18 to discuss the problems they see with Vicksburg and how we can rectify the situation. Our young people have talents in music, poetry, and other arts that must be displayed and cultivated in our community. Community policing and neighborhood watch programs also need to be restored. I would also like to give a pay raise to all front line employees who risk their lives daily to keep us safe. I will not vote to raise my pay as an elected official if I can not do the same for the people who protect me and my 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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