New BPD chief sees children as mission

Published 9:06 am Tuesday, May 9, 2017

New BPD chief sees children as mission

Retiring Batesville Police Chief Tony Jones (right) accepts a plaque from Chief Jimmy McCloud at a reception in Jones’ honor May 4 at St. Mary Catholic Church’s parish hall. Included in the large crowd of well-wishers were Batesville police officers and staff, city officials and employees, family and friends of the retiring chief.
The Panolian photo by John Howell

By John Howell
Batesville Police Chief Jimmy McCloud plans to lead the police department into more community involvement starting with school children, he said last week during remarks at the Rotary Club.
Batesville’s Board of Mayor and Aldermen named McCloud police chief in February after Chief Tony Jones announced his retirement after 40 years’ service.
McCloud said that he had returned from a mission trip to Honduras with a team of other police officers that culminated with a visit to a children’s home.
“I’m thinking in my mind that if it weren’t for mission teams, mission and church groups and individuals to make these opportunities available for these kids, where would they be?” he said.
“We spent the day playing with these children, and it was just a blessing to me, but then I (began) thinking: this is what we need to do at home,” McCloud continued.
“As bad as the situations are in Honduras … we have that same need right here. So our department is changing directions,” he said.
The police chief, assistant chief Kerry Pittman and resource officer Lt. Robert Ales, with encouragement from South Panola Schools Superintendent Tim Wilder and Batesville Elementary School Principal La’Sherry Irby, began visiting school children from kindergarten through third grade with cookies and drinks.
“We try to let them see the good side of police,’ McCloud said, acknowledging the negative images that children and parents form about police from television.
“We sit down at the table and we play with the kids for a little while, and we love on them and we try to let them see our uniform; we try let them see the good side of police,” the police chief continued.
“I truly believe that there’s a percentage of a generation out there that we have lost. They don’t have respect for authority; they don’t have respect for each other. If we can love on them enough to earn their respect when they’re four and five years old; hopefully they will carry that on up with them,” McCloud said.
With Ales, he said that he plans to ask churches if they can come to their vacation Bible schools with 911 coloring books for the children.
“Let them see us; let them see the uniform. Let them see that every time you see a police officer, he’s not putting somebody in handcuffs.”
“Hopefully down the road, we’ll see the benefits of what the Batesville Police Dept. is trying to do,” the chief said.
“When you hear people say — because they see it on Facebook — that the chief of police and the deputy chief and the lieutenant are coloring with some kids, a lot of people think it’s foolish. Help me explain to them why we’re doing it,” McCloud requested
“I think in the long term, it will benefit this city and this community and this county,” McCloud continued.
“We’re going to minister to these kids in our own way.”
“Our department is going to a new focus in this administration … toward the community side,” he said.
The police chief also cited other outreach efforts including personal visits to businesses by patrol officers during open hours and door hangars left by patrol officers checking doors at night.
Batesville’s newest police chief acknowledged the areas of focus of the three prior chiefs under whom he served since he joined as a patrol officer in 1993. He said that Chief Roger Vanlandingham had worked to add a sufficient personnel to make BPD commensurate with Batesville’s growth. Chief Gerald Legge expanded the department’s role in local schools with the addition of school resource officers, and Chief Jones developed a special operations unit to combat drug trafficking and gang violence.
“We’re going to continue to have the school resource officers; we’re going to continue to work drugs; we’re going to continue to work gangs; we’re going to continue to work all the problems we do, but what we’re going to do is gear our department a little more to the community side; toward our children,” McCloud said.

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