SALUTE TO FIRST RESPONDERS: WCSO asks ‘How have we helped the public today?’

Published 2:57 pm Sunday, March 31, 2024

Warren County Sheriff Martin Pace said the goal of the Warren County Sheriff’s Office is a simple one: finding a way to make the community better on a daily basis.

How his office goes about achieving that goal, however, is more complex. Pace said there is much more that goes into running the sheriff’s office than a lot of people may realize.

“(People) think about the policing end of it and that’s one small part of what we do,” Pace said. “We’ve got jail operation, court operation, prisoner transportation. There are all kinds of things that we do other than patrolling the roads.”

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Pace said the office of sheriff is a constitutional office, which means it is required by Mississippi’s state constitution. There are also certain constitutional and statutory duties of the sheriff other than just the law enforcement aspect, he added.

“The sheriff’s office is broken up, basically, into three different groups,” he said. “You have your jail operation. The county jail houses all felony suspects. The sheriff of the county is responsible for the housing, the care for all felony suspects, regardless of what agency makes the arrest. Their housing, their medication, their transportation to and from court appearances. All of that falls under the responsibility of the sheriff.”

Pace said court services is the second of the three arms of the WCSO, and is one he feels is most commonly misunderstood.

“The court services division are all certified officers,” he said. “They have the same training, the same requirements for duty that the patrol officers that you see on the road have. Now, that’s not required. That’s something that I require. State law states that a court officer does not have to complete the 12-week basic training in the state law enforcement academy, but when I took office, I immediately began requiring that.”

Pace said court services are responsible for the security of the courthouse, including the judges and attorneys working within. 

“And, first and foremost, the public that uses the courthouse,” Pace added. “We have deputies assigned to each court. We have deputies assigned to the building itself. Court services is also responsible for serving all of the civil and criminal court processes that come out of those courts. The summons, the court orders, subpoenas, are served by members of the sheriff’s office that are in court services.”

As for transportation, Pace said the third arm of the WCSO is a busy, and often dangerous, aspect of the job that flies largely under the public’s radar, but is vital to the court and law enforcement process.

“It’s responsible for taking county inmates to and from court, to and from medical appointments, mental health appointments and, convicted felons – once they’re convicted in court – they’re responsible for transporting them to the state penitentiary. I have, as we speak today, deputies transporting five individuals to the state penitentiary from the county jail.”

The law enforcement division people are most familiar with is also broken up into a separate, two-part subset, Pace said.

“You have uniformed patrols and you have investigations. So, uniformed patrol officers are responsible for patrolling and enforcing the law in the 618 square miles of Warren County. That’s approximately 500 linear miles of county roadway that does not include state or interstate highways, private roads or city streets.”

For comparison, Pace said, the City of Vicksburg is 33 square miles. But Pace added that, when it comes to jurisdiction, those committing crimes should be aware WCSO doesn’t stop where the city limits begin.

“The sheriff’s office has jurisdiction throughout the entire county, which would include the city limits,” he said. “The city limits make no difference one way or the other to the sheriff’s office as far as jurisdiction. But, in Warren County, where Vicksburg has a robust, well-staffed police department, the 911 calls inside the city limits go to the police department. That does not negate the authority of the sheriff, so a lot of our investigations bleed over into the city and we have an excellent working relationship with the Vicksburg Police Department. It is not uncommon for my investigators and the police department investigators to be working hand-in-hand to benefit the public, to support a victim and to identify and arrest a suspect.”

Pace said it takes all three divisions working together to successfully reach the goals the WCSO seeks to attain daily. 

“I strongly insist on a community policing approach to law enforcement,” he said. “We are a problem solving agency. We are not a statistical-driven agency. It’s not about how many tickets you write or how many warrants you serve. It’s ‘How have we helped the public today?’ And if that means making an arrest or writing a citation, that’s what we’ll do, but their measurement of success is about how they have helped the community today.”