VPD addresses concerns, answers questions at town hall meeting

Published 8:07 am Friday, April 19, 2024

Vicksburg Police Department (VPD) held a town hall meeting Tuesday evening and opened the door for discussions with the public on an array of issues, from solving cases and community input, to surveillance and responding to mental health needs.

VPD Chief of Police Penny Jones told the crowd in attendance at the Robert M. Walker Building the open forum event was the next step in the department’s continued commitment to transparency.

“In actuality, and these officers here can attest to it, being a police officer, it’s a calling,” Jones said. “It’s a calling that is demanding and you have to have an unwavering dedication to putting your life on the line for other people.”

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Jones said, while the department routinely faces criticism, she felt a recommitment to openness and transparency was needed in order to bring the community and VPD closer together.

“We face scrutiny every day on this job,” she said. “So, with us working together as a team, being patient with the officers and the leaders in the community, I just think we will have a much better Vicksburg.”

Jones went on to divvy up updating duties between officers in charge of patrol, CID (criminal investigation division), narcotics, youth development and a variety of other topics.

“We’re here to answer as many questions as we possibly can,” Jones said. “We’re also doing what we’re calling Monday morning media, where you have an opportunity to get online and see what has happened in the last seven days; you can see who has been arrested in the last seven days. We caught a little flak, but arrest records are public. And we’re hoping by the end of the year, you’ll be able to do reports online. Not for major crimes, but for things you might not want to call an officer out for.”

Also speaking to the crowd Tuesday was Troy Kimble, deputy chief of homicide and gangs, who recapped 2023 with updates on programs like VPD’s Citizen’s Academy.

“This program was implemented in 2023, to actually give our citizens an opportunity to get as true a perspective as they can get of what we do without actually suiting up in uniform,” Kimble said. “That’s what we wanted to do was give you an opportunity to see what we do from our side of the house. And once you’ve experienced it, then maybe there’s a little bit more empathy about how we handle things and how things are done, and that we’re really not out there to be the bad guys.”

Jones also touched briefly on the state of cameras in Vicksburg, telling those in attendance a new “command center” has been established to allow VPD to better utilize surveillance cameras across the city.

VPD said the center allows all the cameras to be linked into a central location and will also allow law enforcement to access cameras from businesses and other locations that allow access in order to gather needed investigatory information.

“We are just about at our end with the number of cameras we are going to put out,” Jones said. “Today, they started putting the computers in the surveillance room. So, our plan is to, at some point, have our surveillance room running 24/7. We’re actually partnering with the schools and several other businesses to get access to their cameras. If you have a business and are considering getting cameras, it would be great to let us know and let us have access to those cameras, because you’ll have somebody that has the ability to watch those cameras every day.”

Additional updates from Tuesday’s meeting included updates for open cases and the importance of community information in helping solve both cold cases and active investigations and an update from Deputy Chief of Administration Mike Bryant on the ongoing struggle police face in addressing mental health.

Jones and officers on Tuesday said the community can expect to continue receiving updates for all manner of investigations, and reiterated the importance of community feedback. Jones also said the department is currently hiring and on the lookout for qualified men and women interested in serving their communities.

A complete video of Tuesday’s town hall meeting can be found on the VTV – Vicksburg, MS Facebook page.